Stay Healthy in the Sun by

In the past few decades, medical experts and the media have played a hand at generating a near mass hysteria among the public regarding sun safety and health. While many people now believe that being out in the sun for a great amount of time isn’t a wise thing to do, the answer lies in moderation. Sun exposure has its benefits. A major source of vitamin D, the sun wards off depression. It brightens people’s mood and increases energy. While it is beneficial to soak up some rays, the best way to do so is with adequate protection. Wear clothing for protection against UV rays; put on sunscreen or sunblock with a SPF of 15 or more to prevent the skin from burning. Without protection, we can become susceptible to a host of ailments. Read on to find out more about common health issues caused by unprotected overexposure to the sun.


Sunburn is one of the first signs we see from being out in the sun for too long. On light-skinned people, it shows up as reddening of the skin. People with naturally dark skin are protected from the sun due to the amount of melanin in their skin; but they too can still get sunburned. A bad sunburn can turn into sun poisoning, which can cause peeling, blistering, pain, nausea, and fever. It can take several days if not a whole week to get over a bad sunburn.

Premature Wrinkling

Being exposed to the sun for a long period of time contains harmful ultraviolent rays that can cause damage externally as well as under the surface of the skin. Wrinkles are the main side effects of sun exposure. A natural occurrence with aging, wrinkles can become noticeable for young people who go to tanning salons or hang out at the beach. Their skin becomes thinner, drier, and loses elasticity as with age.

Some patches of skin can also become discolored and turn to shades of brown, yellow, red, or gray. People who suffer from these effects can look years (even decades!) older than they really are.

Skin Cancer

Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Places where cancer is most likely to spread on the body are the arms, legs, face, and neck.

The most common form of skin cancer is Basal cell carcinomas, which appears as tumors that are small and bumpy. A skin cancer with extremely low fatality rate, Squamous cell carcinomas can either look like scales, red blotches, or nodules. This type of skin cancer has the potential of killing nearby tissue if untreated. People diagnosed with this type of cancer are more likely to develop other forms of skin cancer.

Everyone is susceptible to getting Malignant melanomas that can crop up as dark spots or dark raised moles. Although melanoma can spread quickly to other parts of the body, when found early and treated, the cure rate is almost 100 percent.

Any kind of cancer is a scary experience; but the good news is that it can be successfully treated. It is important to regularly monitor your body for any strange little changes. When checking for moles or areas of skin discoloration, here are four points to check.

  1. Asymmetry: the growth is not symmetrical, or different on one side.
  2. Border irregularity: the surrounding parts of the growth are jagged or indistinct.
  3. Color: the color of the growth varies. For example, it could exhibit varying shades of browns, black, and reds.
  4. Diameter: the growth measures more than 6mm, or if there is a sudden increase in size. This also applies to existing freckles or moles.

If any of these types of changes are detected, see a dermatologist immediately. Do not minimize its importance or say that you will seek medical attention only if it gets worse – at that point, it might be too late.

Sun Sensitivity

In some cases, people are born with or later develop an allergy to sun exposure. This can manifest itself as hives, red patchy areas, bumps, or blisters. Some medications or cosmetic products and fragrances can also trigger sun sensitivity. Keep in mind that it doesn’t only have to be artificial products that can act as a trigger. For example, the natural oils from some plants, such as orange, tangerine, ginger, lemon, and grapefruit also cause photosensitivity.

Immune System Suppression and Disease

When a person is exposed to too much sun, their immune system can suffer. This applies for people of all races and skin colors. Aside from cancer, people can become vulnerable to various infections. Existing illnesses like lupus or chicken pox can worsen and cause a further decline in health.

Eye Damage

Just as the sun damages our skin, it can also damage our eyes, which are quite sensitive and delicate organs. Too much UV radiation can burn the corneas. Constant overexposure to UV rays can increase the risk of cataracts (the eye lens becomes semi to fully opaque), pterygium (a membrane covering over the eye) or macular degeneration (vision blurred in spots).

Stay Healthy in the Sun by

General Tips for Sun Safety

Protecting ourselves from the sun takes only a few minutes but it is well worth the effort!

  • On hot days, limit the amount of time spent outdoors particularly in the afternoon when the sun is closest to the earth. For activities or chores, go out before noon, or after four o’clock. During the hottest hours, stay indoors in a cool, shaded area.
  • When going outdoors, cover up with a brimmed hat, sunglasses, and protective clothes.
  • Use a sunscreen or sunblock on exposed areas of skin. Sunscreens are absorbed into the skin and block UV rays from within. This means a lot of chemicals enter the skin; however, sunscreens allow people to still tan safely. Sunblocks remain on the skin’s surface and work by reflecting UV rays away. In general, they are a safer option.
  • When using a sunscreen, look for ones that are labeled “broad spectrum” to include UVA as well as UVB rays. Fair-skinned people need SPF of 30 and up, while darker-skinned people can put on adequate protection from around SPF 15.
  • Sunblock or sunscreen should be applied before heading outside. Remember to include some on the face and back of neck. Take the bottle with you and reapply every few hours.
  • Drink plenty of water to hydrate the skin.

The UV Index

The UV index is a measure of the exposure of ultra-violet radiation rays outdoors. By monitoring this index before going outside, people can stay prepared.

  • 0 – 2: This is the minimal range of the scale. During the afternoon, it is generally safe to stay outside for around an hour without getting burned. In areas with water or snow, people should still wear sunglasses and use sunscreen, since these surfaces reflect UV rays very strongly.
  • 3 – 4: At this level, there is a low risk of harm from the sun. People who tend to burn easily can still expect to burn within twenty minutes. A hat, sunglasses, protective clothes, and sunscreen are advisable.
  • 5 – 6: Apart from the previous precautions, at this level people should also use a lip balm with an SPF of about 15.
  • 7 – 9: In addition to standard sun protection measures, stay in shaded areas when outdoors, preferably away from water, pavements, and sand. Clothing made of tightly woven cloth is best.
  • 10+: At this level, outdoor exposure can be very dangerous. The risk of burning can be under five minutes. Stay indoors if possible, or use full coverage when heading outside.

Further Resources