The upcoming Memorial Day Weekend marks the unofficial first day of summer! Many will celebrate by spending long days at the beach, hikes in the woods, barbeques in the yard, outdoor parties at the park, and plenty of fun in the sun. Unfortunately, summertime can also mean sunburn, dehydration and heatstroke for those who are not mindful and careful. At Sand Hills Community Wellness Center, we want to give you some helpful tips to prevent these concerns so that you can make the most of the summer season ahead!
Exposure to the sunlight is important, but not too much! Vitamin D is important for good overall health and strong and healthy bones. It’s also an important factor in making sure your muscles, heart, lungs and brain work well and that your body can fight infection. It's estimated that we get (or should get) more than 90% of our vitamin D from casual, daily sun exposure. Although there are variables to this, studies have found that between five and 30 minutes of sun exposure to your unprotected face, arms, legs or back between the hours of 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. two to three times every week is enough for your body to produce all the D3 it needs.
The best defense from damaging UV rays is prevention: After you soak up your vitamin D, it's important to use sun screen when spending time outdoors, especially in the spring and summer months. Skin cancer is the most common form of the cancer in the United States. According to the American Cancer Society, approximated 3.5 million people are diagnosed with basal or squamous skin cancer each year. Exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun and severe sunburns in the past are two major risk factors for skin cancer. Use a broad spectrum, water resistant sunscreen with a SPF (sun protection factor) of 30 or higher. Sunscreens with SPF values under 15, whether they are labeled Broad Spectrum or not, can only claim to help protect against sunburn. Apply sunscreen a half hour before getting out in the sun. Reapply at least every two hours. Apply more sunscreen after swimming and sweating.
Be an early bird or a night owl! The sun is the strongest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. If you plan to be outside during a heat wave, limit your outdoor activities to the early morning or to the evening when temperatures are lower and the sun isn’t as strong. Keep in mind: sunscreen is still essential even when the sun isn’t the strongest. You are still at risk for sunburn when it is cloudy too.
Dress for the occasion! During the warm summer months, wear loose, cotton/linen and light-colored clothes. Long sleeve shirts, pants, and dresses will reduce UV rays from penetrating the skin. A good hat with a large brim will protect the face, neck, eyes and ears. Wear polarized sunglasses to prevent skin damage around the eye and cataracts.
Eat fruits & veggies to build up your “internal sunscreen”! A healthy summertime diet should be based on an abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables. Believe it or not, because fruits and vegetables are high in antioxidants, they actually protect your skin from sun-damage. In addition, they slow the aging process and are even shown to protect against cancer. Fruits known to have especially high antioxidant levels include cranberries, blueberries, blackberries, apples, red grapes, mangoes and peaches, to name a few. Vegetables are important as well. Dark green vegetables, yellow, red and green peppers, and tomatoes are all good sources of antioxidants. Beans, lentils, carrots and sweet potatoes are also great sources. A colorful salad should be a staple of your summertime meals.
Stay Hydrated and Cool! A big concern during summertime is the risk of dehydration, which can lead to heat exhaustion, and in more serious cases, heat stroke. Always have plenty of water available. Avoid alcohol and caffeine as they can make dehydration worse. If you find you are exhibiting symptoms of overheating and dehydration, get to a cool or air-conditioned environment immediately, take a cool bath, or dip in the ocean or lake.
Helpful tip before heading outdoors: Before you head outdoors, check the UV index in your area daily. The UV Index Scale predicts the risk of overexposure to UV rays on a 1-15 scale, with higher levels indicating a greater risk of exposure. It is a good guide for how much caution to take while working, exercising or playing outdoors.