Bright and sunny days are ahead, and our team at Integrity Urgent Care loves seeing people enjoying the great outdoors. Armed with extra water, some healthy snacks, and a plan for exercise, play, or even relaxation, your local parks, front yard, sidewalks, or other outdoor spot can be a great place to spend time. It is important we remember than the sun can have damaging effects on our bodies and to be aware how to be careful under those bright rays.
Sunburns, Sun Spots, and Aging
The UV rays from the sun can be good for our health in some ways. Whether we gain a healthy dose of vitamin D or ward off seasonal depression, spending time in the sun has it’s benefits. However, the sun can quickly damage your skin by altering your body’s responses. Prolonged exposure has been linked to chemicals releasing in your body, seeping into the layer of the skin called the dermis, which causes the well-known sunburn. Other times, exposure can trigger the pigment cells inside your skin, called melanocytes, to increase production, making dark spots appear on the surface of your skin as a natural barrier to these UV rays. Additionally, harmful rays from the sun attack the cell membranes of the DNA in your skin cells and alter the proteins found there. Wrinkling and sagging skin can be directly attributed to this cellular alteration.
With 1 in 5 people developing skin cancer in the United States and more than 2 people per hour dying of skin cancer every hour, there are a large number of people in our country who are impacted by this concern. What seems like a harmful dark spot or sunburn that may turn into a tan, could actually be your body creating a response that will lead to the development of cancer. UV-B rays can also “affect the immune system and interfere with the skin’s ability to repair itself.” With each exposure, whether a tan or a burn happens, the damage to the skin is made and the chances of skin cancer may increase.
Everyone should proceed with caution when spending time in the sun, but there are some groups who should be more careful than others. Anyone who spends more than 15 minutes at a time in the sun should seek protection; this includes drivers who may have more sun exposure on one side of their body through their driver side window. If you have a family history of skin cancer, you will want to be vigilant about applying sunblock and checking frequently for unusual moles or freckle growth. While those with fair skin often have more sun damage than those with darker skin, all tones can burn and get skin cancer. This is also a case where the more you are exposed, the great your chance of getting skin cancer. Your risk of developing melanoma doubles by having 5 of more sunburns in your life.
There are a number of ways you can enjoy your time outside while still protecting yourself or your family. Try to find a nice spot in the shade to prevent direct rays or bring an umbrella or canopy to create your own. Be cautious around water, light sandy beaches, or even pavement, where harmful rays can reflect and cause unforeseen damage. If you are moving, plan on a hat to help provide shade to your face and scalp, some of the easiest places to get sun. Clothing, especially darker, tighter knit fabrics, offer protection, but we know sometimes the heat prevents wearing long sleeves and full pants. Consider a beach cover-up or t-shirt to throw on after swimming. Always apply sunblock and reapply often, particularly after swimming or sweating. Be sure to help children get to those hard to reach and often forgotten places like ears, back of the neck, and knees!
To learn more about skin health and sun safety, our medical team is ready to see you and your family. We want our patients and everyone in our community to find safe and fun ways to enjoy the time outdoors. By following a few basic guidelines and keeping up with your general health, you can spend plenty of time outside. For all other health issues, come see us today.