Be Safe In the Sun & Protect Yourself from UV Rays
Summer is here and after a long, cold winter, millions of people around the country are flocking to pools, beaches, vacation resorts, parks, and just about anywhere else they can find to bask in the warm sunlight. Being outdoors and enjoying summer activities makes most people feel good; however, the sun has both good and bad effects on our bodies.
It’s the height of summertime in the Maryland and Pennsylvania and it’s hot. The blazing sun and consistent temperatures at 90˚F+ aren’t just unbearable at times, this extreme heat can actually also make some symptoms of vein disease worse.
Venous insufficiency is what happens when the veins are no longer regulating and directing the flow of blood appropriately, sometimes leaking or becoming backed up and swollen like in varicose veins. While not all vein diseases are affected by the heat, the symptoms of venous insufficiency, in particular, are prone to flare up around this time of year. If you’ve been diagnosed with venous insufficiency previously or if you are experiencing leg pain or leg cramps, request an expert consultation from Maryland Vascular Specialists.
In support of UV Safety Awareness Month that is recognized annually in July, below we are sharing some safety precautions that you should take to prevent the sun from damaging your skin and eyes this summer (and year-round).
WHAT ARE UV RAYS?
UV (ultra-violet) rays are light rays that reach the planet in wavelengths in the form of UV-A and UV-B rays. Both are known to cause serious damage to your skin. With the exception of cellar dwellers (people who stay indoors all of the time), we are exposed to UV rays throughout our lives and most of us don’t give it a second thought unless we’re at the beach or on vacation.
UV-A and UV-B are two types of the dangerous rays.
- UV-A: UV-A rays reach us in long wavelengths; they are so strong that they can penetrate the outer layer of our skin and cause serious internal damage.
- UV-B: UV-B rays have shorter wavelengths that also strong, however, they only reach the outer layer of skin.
Understanding the risk that UV rays are the first step in making sure that you and your family stay healthy.
4 WAYS THAT THE SUN’S UV RAYS CAN CAUSE DAMAGE
According to skincancer.org, new research is published every year on the damaging effects of the sun. Here are a few facts that can aid:
1. The sun can damage your eyes and cause vision problems
Protecting your eyes from UV rays is just as important as protecting your skin, and wearing sunglasses when you are outdoors is the best protection for doing this. If your eyes are constantly unprotected, then overtime UV rays have the potential to cause damage to every part of your eyes — from the lids to the retina. Vision damage such as temporary and permanent blindness can also be the caused by overexposure to UV rays.
2. UV rays can potentially suppress your immune system
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), new research has concluded that exposure to UV rays can change the way cells, that are responsible for the immune system, respond. When this happens, your risk of serious infections and disease goes up. In addition, some studies indicate that UV rays can reduce the effectiveness of vaccines.
3. Overexposure to sun rays cause premature aging of the skin
Have you ever seen someone that has a great tan but their skin looks wrinkled or like leather? You think they look great for their age, and then you find out they are actually many years younger than you thought. — Premature aging damage of their skin is caused by the sun.
The American Cancer Society states that everyone is affected by the sun’s UV rays to some degree; people with darker skin as less likely to be affected while light or fair skinned people are more likely to be sunburned or have some type of skin damage. Those who get sunburned often are more susceptible to developing skin cancer.
4. The sun can cause skin cancer
The most common types of skin cancer are Basal Cell and Squamous Cell cancer. These types of cancer are not life-threatening if they are treated. However, if it is not treated, it can turn into Melanoma which is life threatening. According to skincancer.org, over four MILLION cases of Basal Cell and Squamous Cell cancer are diagnosed every year. If you notice lumps, moles, skin discoloration or any other abnormality on your skin, seek medical attention right away to be proactive.
The American Cancer Society states that there is a higher risk factor if YOU:
- Have had previously been diagnosed with skin cancer
- Have a family history of skin cancer, including melanoma
- Have a lot of moles that are irregular, or large moles
- Have freckles and burn easily and often
- Have fair skin, blue or green eyes, or blond, red, or light brown hair
- Live or vacation at high altitudes – this increases the strength of UV rays
- Live or vacation in tropical areas – these areas usually have constant sunlight
- Work indoors all week and then spend most of your time outdoors on weekends
- Spend a lot of time outdoors
- Have certain autoimmune diseases, such as systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE, or lupus)
- Have a medical condition that weakens your immune system, such as infection with HIV (the virus that causes AIDS)
- Have had an organ transplant
- Take medicines that lower or suppress your immune system
- Take medicines that make your skin more sensitive to sunlight
HOW TO PROTECT YOURSELF FROM THE UV RAYS
There are safety precautions that you can take to protect yourself from UV rays.
Not all sunglasses are the same — cheap sunglasses most likely will not offer the UV protection your eyes need. According to the Mayo Clinic, you need sunglasses that block 99 to 100 percent of UV rays, which means they should be able to screen out between 75 to 90 percent of light. The lenses should not have any distortions or imperfections that will cause you to remove them often to see.
While some people think that darker lenses are cooler and better for your eyes, the truth is that the darkness level of your sunglasses does nothing to protect your eye from UV rays. You need sunglasses that are UV rated. It is also recommended that you wear sunglasses with wide lenses that wrap around your eyes and that are close to your skin in order to get maximum protection.
For those of you who mix a bottle of baby oil and iodine and then bake in the sun, you are just asking for trouble. Although you may get the desired tan you want right now, in the long run, this recipe for baking yourself could be devastating.
Sunscreen it the best way to protect your skin from UV rays. There are a lot of sunscreen products on the market which causes a lot of confusion when people try to decide what is the best type of sunscreen to buy.
The first step is to look at the SPF (sun protection factor) level. for most people, an SPF of 15 is enough to prevent UV rays from reaching your skin. However, for those who are fair skinned or burn easily and quickly, it is recommended that they use a higher SPF.
The Mayo Clinic states that when applied correctly, a sunscreen with an SPF of 30 will provide slightly more protection from UVB rays than does a sunscreen with an SPF of 15. However, the SPF 30 product isn’t twice as protective as the SPF 15 product (which is what a lot of people think). Water-resistant sunscreen products mean that the SPF is maintained for up to 40 minutes while swimming or sweating. A “very water-resistant” label means the SPF is maintained for 80 minutes.
When you use sunscreen:
- Apply generous amounts of sunscreen to dry skin 15 minutes before you go outdoors.
- Use sunscreen on all skin surfaces that will be exposed to the sun, such as your face, ears, hands, arms, and lips. If you don’t have much hair on your head, apply sunscreen to the top of your head or wear a hat.
- Reapply sunscreen every two hours — and immediately after swimming or heavy sweating even if you’re using a product that’s water resistant.
- Remember that sand, water, and snow reflect sunlight and make it more important to use sunscreen.
- Since UV light can pass through clouds, use sunscreen even when it’s cloudy.
You can apply sunscreen to children as young as age 6 months. Keep younger children in the shade as much as possible. A combination of shade, clothing, sunscreen and common sense is your best bet.
The less skin that is exposed to the sun is one of greatest protection factors, however, not all clothing is created equally. Just as sunscreen has an SPF (sun protection factor) level, clothing has a UPF (ultraviolet protection factor) level. Yes, choosing the right clothing to cover up in the sun is also a way to prevent the sun from damaging your skin. The UPF works in the same way as SPF it prevents UV rays from your skin.
Have you ever gotten a sunburn even though you wore protective clothing? That’s because it was not UPF clothing. UPF clothing is specially made by using different amounts of fiber and material to prevent UV rays from penetrating it and harming your skin. It is important to check the label and make sure it is approved UPF clothing. It is also recommended that you wear a wide-brimmed hat when you’re in the sun; the brim should be wide enough to provide cover for your head, ears, and back of your neck.
Your skin is the single largest organ and it is important to keep it healthy. Be aware that too much sun can damage your skin and cause serious health issues. Most importantly, remember that it is never too late to start protecting your skin.
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