A Little Sunshine Goes A Long Way

Summer is here and a relaxing day by the swimming pool or on the beach might be just what you need in order to de-stress and regain some mental clarity. Living in China we see that for many summer is like a game of hide and seek which involves hiding from the sun with umbrellas, long sleeves and large sun visors. But when it comes to getting some sunshine, it's all about moderation.

Some Sun Is Good

It's a fact - sunlight provides many healthy benefits including being an excellent source of Vitamin D. Also known as the "sunshine vitamin", Vitamin D helps our bones to absorb calcium for bone strength. In 2007, new studies suggested that Vitamin D may also help ward off diabetes, gum disease and may even help prevent cancer. Many scientists suggest 15 minutes of sunshine a few times a week without sunscreen is healthy.

Too Much Sun Is Bad

Unfortunately, after years of frequent sun exposure, sun bathing and tanning, our skin can develop unattractive pigmentation spots. Some of these spots can lead to melanomas (skin cancers). The other more immediate concern is acute sunburn. Familiar symptoms of sunburn include swelling, pain, blisters and dry, itchy, peeling skin a few days after the burn. Other symptoms can also include fever, chills and weakness. You are at a higher risk of sunburn if you:

  1. Do not use sun protection (SPF lotion, clothing or shade).
  2. Are in direct sun rays for the first time after a longer period (such as winter).
  3. Have fair skin which is more sensitive to direct sun exposure.
  4. Spend time near, on or in the water.
  5. Fall asleep in the sun.
  6. Stay in the sun during peak hours (between 10 am to 4 pm).

First Aid Tips for Sun-Burns

  • Take a cool bath or use cool compresses on the sunburned area.
  • Take acetaminophen or ibuprofen for discomfort. Be sure to follow the directions on the container.
  • Apply a topical moisturizer, aloe gel, hydrocortisone cream or a topical pain reliever to sunburned skin. Be sure and avoid any creams or lotions that contain Benadryl or benzocaine because of the possibility of skin irritation or allergy.
  • If blisters are present, do not break them open as infection can occur.
  • Keep out of the sun until the burn is healed.

Research has shown that most skin damage from the sun is experienced before the age of 18 so it's important we take care of our skin from an early age. Here are 5 healthy skin habits for your summer:

  1. Wear wide brimmed hats that protect your face from direct sun exposure.
  2. Stay in the shade as much as possible.
  3. Swim outdoors before or after peak hours; use indoor facilities during daytime.
  4. Use sun block with a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of 25-30 in subtropical and tropical. areas. Apply liberally to exposed skin and re-apply as instructed on the label. Re-apply more frequently if you are swimming or sweating excessively.
  5. Children 6 months or less should not be exposed to direct sun light. When outside, sunscreen may be used on small areas of the body such as the face and the back of the hands if adequate clothing and shade are not available. Apply carefully around the eyes, avoiding the eyelids. If your baby accidentally rubs sunscreen in their eyes, be sure to wash hands and around eyes immediately.

Whether you are in China, back home or on vacation this summer, remember a little sun is good but too much of anything can be a bad thing. Take the right precautions and make sure your skin has a healthy and safe summer.

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Healthcare Expert Shanghai