How to Safely Have Fun in the Sun
Building Health By Dale Peterson, MD
With the arrival of summer most families will be spending more time outdoors. Sunshine provides many health benefits, but excessive sun exposure can have serious consequences. Too often a fun filled day at a pool, a baseball game, or an amusement park is followed by and agonizing night. A few simple precautions can allow families to enjoy fun in the sun without paying the penalty of a painful burn at the end of the day.
Sunshine provides many health benefits, but excessive sun exposure can have serious consequences. Too often a fun filled day at a pool, a baseball game, or an amusement park is followed by and agonizing night. A few simple precautions can allow families to enjoy fun in the sun without paying the penalty of a painful burn at the end of the day.
Sunburns are not only painful; they can damage the skin and set the stage for the appearance of skin cancers later in life. Excessive sun exposure can cause sunburn in anyone, but fair-skinned individuals are the most susceptible. The amount of sun exposure that is excessive will vary depending upon the degree of tanning that has previously taken place, the altitude, and the time of day. Untanned skin can burn in as little as fifteen or twenty minutes. Burning is more likely to occur at higher altitudes because the sun’s rays are more intense in the thinner atmosphere. The risk of burning is greatest during midday when the sun’s rays are at their peak.
Avoiding sunburn is always preferable to treating sunburn that has occurred. Prevention is best accomplished by wearing protective clothing and limiting the time spent in direct sunlight. A broad-brimmed hat can protect the ears, nose, and neck from the sun. A long-sleeved shirt can protect the arms, and a towel can protect the legs and feet when in direct sunlight. Performing outdoor activities before 10:00 a.m. or after 3:00 p.m. can lessen the risk of sunburn significantly.
The need for protective clothing can be reduced by gradual tanning. Initial exposures should be for twenty minutes or less. As the tanning process progresses, the length of each exposure can be increased.
Sunscreen is best used as a back-up when cover-up is not a reasonable option. If used, sunscreen should be applied only to the areas of skin susceptible to burning. Its use should be infrequent; it should not be routinely applied on a daily basis.
I caution against the frequent and excessive use of sunscreen because it is clearly a two-edged sword. On one hand it provides varying degrees of protection from sunburn and thus can potentially lower the risk of subsequent skin cancer; on the other it subjects the user to toxic chemicals, many of which are known to increase future cancer risk.
Nearly all sunscreens contain a chemical called oxybenzone. It is often added to other personal care products such as moisturizers and anti-aging creams as well. The Centers for Disease Control reported in 2008 that 97 percent of Americans tested had oxybenzone in their bodies. This included 6 8 year old children. The chemical has been linked to allergies, hormonal disruption, cell damage, and low birth weight in girls whose mothers were exposed to it during their pregnancy. As if its own ill effects were not bad enough, oxybenzone increases the rate at which other substances are absorbed through the skin.
Many of the other chemicals found in sunscreens are suspected carcinogens. In addition, several of the chemicals interfere with hormone function, damage the skin, and adversely affect the body’s immune system.
Nutrients that provide internal protection from the sun’s rays should not be overlooked. Plant substances called oligo proanthocyanidins (OPCs), which are present in the skins of dark colored grapes and berries and are also extracted from pine bark and grape seeds, act as internal sunscreens. They decrease the likelihood of burning and neutralize free radicals that are responsible for much of the damage caused by excessive sun exposure.
When sunburn occurs, early intervention can bring rapid improvement and significantly reduce the damage resulting from it. The most effective sunburn treatment is rehydration with micro-clustered water.
Water as it is found in nature is made up of large clusters of H2O molecules. Catalysts can be added to water to break up the large clusters. The resulting micro-clustered water is able to move through cell membranes much more effectively. Catalysts are sold under the names Willard Water, Biowater, or simply Catalyst Water. One ounce of catalyst is sufficient to convert one gallon of regular water into micro-clustered water.
The micro-clustered water can be placed in a spray mist bottle. The burned area should be sprayed liberally. Pain and burning will ease almost immediately. The area should be sprayed again each time discomfort reappears. I have treated dozens of people in this manner and even the most severe sunburn has resolved without blistering or peeling. Applying a moisturizer that is free of oxybenzone to the area once the micro-clustered water has successfully eliminated the initial pain and redness can enhance the healing process.
Sunburn can almost always be prevented. If it does occur, instituting corrective measures immediately can greatly reduce pain and minimize damage to the skin. It’s possible to safely have fun in the sun all summer long.
Dr. Dale Peterson is a graduate of the University of Minnesota College of Medicine. He completed his residency in FamilyMedicine at the University of Oklahoma. He is a past president of the Oklahoma Academy of Family Physicians. He had a full-time family practice in Edmond, Oklahoma, for over 20 years and was a Chief of Staff of the Edmond Hospital. He was active in teachingfor many years as a Clinical Professor of Family Medicine through the Oklahoma University Health Sciences Center.
Dr. Peterson left his full-time family practice in 1999 to consult with individuals who are seeking ways to restore and maintain their health through improved nutrition and other lifestyle changes. He founded the Wellness Clubs of America to give people access to credible information on supporting and maintaining their health. His monthly wellness letter, Health by Design, and his Health by Design E-Newsletter provide helpful information to individuals interested in preventing and conquering health challenges. His book Building Health by Design: Adding Life to Your Years and Years to Your Life was released in December 2010.
Dr. Peterson speaks regularly on subjects related to health and nutrition. He hosted a weekly radio program,Your Health Matters, on KTOK in Oklahoma City for five years. For the past nine years he has addressed questions from across the nation on his Your Health Matters weekly teleconference.He offers a free video LifeXtension course at www.drdalepeterson.com.
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