Sun Safety by Dr. Rajiv Narula
The Sun had been worshipped by the Egyptians as Ra, amongst Hindus, Surya is the name given to this celestial body, without whose magical powers life would cease to exist. In the west the term ‘sun worship’ means trying to expose ones skin to the sun to darken it, in order to attain the perfect tan. For those of us who live in the northern climates, nothing feels better than the warm rays of the sun, especially after a long cold ‘sunless’ winter. There is nothing wrong in this new form of sun worship as long as it is in moderation and we pay attention to certain things.
With more people traveling to the tropics, the issue of sun exposure is very important. The sun emits UVA and UVB rays, the exposure in the UVB range is the most damaging to the skin and the eyes. Sun exposure is the most important risk factor for all forms of skin cancer. Fair skinned people with a history of significant sun exposure are at greatest risk. Cumulative exposure has long been considered a risk factor for skin cancer.
50 % to 80% of the skin’s lifetime sun damage is thought to occur in childhood and adolescence. As children love to play outdoors, and due to the previously mentioned risks, it is extremely important to protect them correctly. One of the issues that are apparent is that when one applies sun screens, people tend to stay in the sun longer, thus increasing their risk. Recent recommendations by Dermatologists is to use sun screen every 2-3 hours while in the sun.
Individuals who are taking medications like doxycycline ( used for the prevention of malaria and also for the treatment of Lyme disease ), certain anti- depressants, sulfa based antibiotics, diabetic medications and thiazide diuretics, are more liable to get a sun burn as their skins maybe more sun sensitive. These individuals need to use sun screen adequately and be careful when they are out in the sun
- Ways to minimize the ill effects of the sun:
- Minimize staying in the sun between 11am and 3 pm
- Wear protective clothing – light, cotton, full sleeves, hats, sun glasses. In the tropics it is not uncommon to see people using umbrellas to protect themselves
- Use of sun screens with PABA with sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 or greater, for BOTH UVA and UVB rays is essential.