Safe Summer Fun

For me, summer means sun, sand, beautiful surf, cool drinks, beach chairs and towels and relaxing with a good book under a striped beach umbrella breathing in the salt air.
Sounds wonderful….. And there are some hidden health dangers to that fun filled day at the beach with family and friends.

I can remember when I was young my mother would say to me “you look so pale, go outside and get some color”. So I did; Lots of color in the form of sunburn. Back then, (I am not really that ancient) we did not have sunscreen. We had suntan lotion and suntan oil. In my teen age years, I would bake on the beach with baby oil and iodine to get that “healthy” summer glow. And if that was not bad enough, I used reflectors to maximize the effects of the suns rays. Who knew that years later we would discover just how damaging all that sun exposure would be.

Over the last 25-30 years we have been more diligent about sun protection and now even that is changing. 10 years ago, one could use a lotion with a protection spf value of 15-30 confident that sunburn could be avoided. Now a higher spf number is needed. One of my Dermatologist friends recently told me that a sunscreen should have a protection value of 65 or higher and that it should be applied daily even if you have no intention of sunbathing.

Skin cancer is on the rise and the ones most at risk are our youth. First of all, they think that they are invincible, that skin cancer only happens to older people and that they have time before they have to use sunscreen. Not true. Because of the thinning of the ozone layer, all people from babies to the elderly need to be protected from the harmful effects of the sun. There are now lotions and creams and sprays that block the sun totally specially made for babies whose skin is much more delicate and sensitive. They make protective clothing ….shirts, pants, shorts, hats etc. to add to the options for sun protection.

Some interesting facts:

– A regular shirt provides a spf value of about 8.
– There are 3 types of skin cancer: Basel cell, squamous cell and Melanoma, Basel cell and squamous cell can become serious if left untreated. Melanoma can be life threatening.
– Most squamous cell skin cancer occurs on the top of the ears where we forget to apply sunscreen.
– A good portion of skin cancer occurs on the left arm, neck and face due to sun exposure while driving.
– The skin cancer that you have today is a result of sun exposure you had 20+ years ago.
– Skin cancer can occur on unexposed parts of the body also. This may be due in part to the rays penetrating through clothing.
– You can still burn on very cloudy days so don’t be fooled by an overcast day.
– To be effective, sunscreen/ sun block must be applied often and especially after swimming or sweating.

So, this summer when you go to the beach, pool, picnic, sports events, concerts and any other activity that involves being out of doors have a great time, lots of fun and be safe and protected by doing some simple things beforehand.

– Apply a sunscreen or sun block with a high spf number and reapply it often.
– Wear a big hat, one that especially protects the ears.
– Wear long sleeves if possible in clothing that breathes, like cotton.
– Put lots of sun block on children….the sprays are easier to apply and are just as effective. Reapply often.
– See a Dermatologist for a body check at least once a year as preventative care.

See you at the beach……I will be there under the umbrella with my big hat, long sleeves, dark sunglasses and lots of sunblock.

Linda West

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