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Wellness Wednesday: Stay safe in the sun this summer

June 13, 2018

Coast Guard All Hands is featuring the monthly “Wellness Wednesday” series to help Coast Guard members learn more about healthy living. Blog author Tim Merrell is the Coast Guard’s Health Promotion Program Manager, a prior health services technician, has a bachelor’s degree in health education, and is a certified personal trainer. Please contact [email protected] for topic recommendations or questions.

Over exposure to ultraviolet rays penetrate the skin causing manipulation of skin cells which could lead to skin cancer. Sunburns can not only happen on in the summer but winter as well with reflection from the snow, wear sunscreen to mitigate that risk. (U.S. Air Force Illustration/Staff Sgt. Alexandre Montes)

The sunny days have returned and we all look forward to outdoor activities. But, being health conscious people, we must be careful and protect our largest organ: our skin.

When we are in our younger years, it is easy to tell yourself “I look better and healthier with a tan.” But tanning can lead to short term payoff with long term consequences. Excessive exposure to sunlight and tanning can lead to brown spots and wrinkling of the skin texture. And, repeated sunburns or tanning can increase your risk for melanoma – a type of skin cancer that can spread to other parts of the body and be deadly. Don’t endanger your life over vanity.

Melanoma is the most common type of cancer in the United States. To protect your skin from harmful UV rays, the CDC recommends taking the following precautions:

  • Wear sunglasses that block both UVA and UVB rays. Many young people may not be aware that your eyes need protecting and that cataracts are more prevalent in the later years. While other factors can contribute, ultraviolet over exposure is a direct cause.
  • Avoid direct sunlight. It is recommended that direct sunlight be avoided between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. because the rays are most harmful during this period.
  • Check your back. Your back is the most common site for Melanoma, so find a friend who has your back when applying sunscreen. Also, keep an eye on moles you may have. A mole that changes in any way should always be checked by a doctor.

How to choose Sunscreen infographic

  • Use sunscreen! Apply sunscreen at least 15 minutes before going outside. The recommended strength is at least Sun Protection Factor (SPF) 15, but SPF 30 or 50 is even better.

And finally,

  • If you are outside, cover up in protective clothing such as a wide brimmed hat, long sleeved-shirts and pants to protect your face and body.

It is also important to remember to keep hydrated with plenty of water when working or playing in the heat. Heat related illnesses could be deadly if not addressed quickly. Review the signs and symptoms at the following site: What is “heat illness”? 

Summer is a great time of year, but remember to protect yourself and family members.

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