The sun can sometimes get a bad rap for only having negative effects on our health when, in fact, it has several positive effects for our overall health. Sunshine should be enjoyed but in moderation.
Positive Effects of the Sun
Enhances Your Mood
Being in the sun can make people feel better and have more energy. Sunlight increases the levels of serotonin in the brain, which is associated with improved mood. Not surprisingly, serotonin levels are highest in the summer.
Treats Seasonal Depression (commonly referred to as Seasonal Affective Disorder)
In certain people, the lack of sunlight in the winter seems to trigger depression. Symptoms include bad moods, difficulty making and keeping friends, overeating, tiredness and sleeping too much. Seasonal depression, formerly known as Seasonal Affective Disorder, is rare in the warmer months.
Everyone experiences stress for various factors, such as family, work and health issues. Stress can be relieved in a variety of ways, including exercise, having relaxing hobbies, walking the dog or by getting out in the fresh air for a little sun exposure.
Sunlight exposure impacts how much melatonin your brain produces, which is what tells your brain when it is time to sleep. When it gets dark, you start producing melatonin so you are ready to sleep in about two hours. With more sunlight in the summer, you are likely to feel more awake.
Vitamin D is key in maintaining healthy bone strength. One way you can get this sun vitamin is exposure to the ultraviolet light from the sun. However, you don’t need much time in the sun to reap the benefits. Statistics say that only 15 minutes of sun exposure can provide all the Vitamin D you need.
Negative Effects of the Sun
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), heat exhaustion is the body’s response to excessive loss of water and salt, usually through excessive sweating. People working in a hot environment are at risk of heat exhaustion.
Symptoms of heat exhaustion include:
- Heavy sweating
- Elevated body temperature
- Decreased urine output
If heat exhaustion is left untreated, it can lead to heat stroke. Heat stroke is the most serious heat-related illness and can be life-threatening. According to the CDC, heat stroke causes the body’s temperature to rise quickly and can reach up to 106 degree Fahrenheit within 10 to 15 minutes. Heat stroke requires immediate medical attention because if it is left untreated, it can cause death or permanent disability. If you notice heat stroke, call 911 immediately.
Symptoms of heat stroke include:
- Confusion, altered mental status, slurred speech
- Loss of consciousness (coma)
- Hot, dry skin or profuse sweating
Sunburn is widely recognized as one of the most common negative effects of too much sun exposure. The maximum symptoms of sunburn do not usually appear until about four or five hours after the sun exposure occurs. Ultraviolet light is the cause of sunburn, which may come from the sun or tanning beds.
General symptoms of sunburn include:
- Flu-like symptoms, such as nausea, fever, chills or headache
If you notice a sunburn fever, it’s times to seek attention from a medical professional. Besides a fever, severe burns also involve significant pain and extensive fluid-filled blisters.
A heat rash is a skin rash that occurs when sweat ducts trap perspiration under the skin. Heat rash often takes place during hot, humid weather and, according to the CDC, often looks like red clusters of pimples or small blisters. Heat rash develops in skin folds, elbow creases, the groin or on the neck and upper chest.
Heat rash can be treated by staying in a cool environment to prevent sweating and by keeping the affected area of skin dry. To help relieve the symptoms of heat rash, the CDC suggests using powder to increase comfort. However, it is not advised to use ointment or creams.
We associate wrinkles with aging, but sun exposure is a significant factor in their development and how early they appear. UV light damages collagen and elastic tissue in the skin, so it becomes fragile and does not spring back into shape, causing sagging.
Soaking up the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays also raises your risk of skin cancer. There are more people diagnosed with skin cancer each year in the U.S. than all other cancers combined, and so it’s important to understand this disease and what you can do to protect yourself.
Although melanoma comprises less than 5% of all skin cancers, it accounts for the vast majority of deaths caused by skin cancer as it tends to grow quickly and metastasize or spread to other organ systems of the body.
Background on melanoma:
- Melanoma is the fifth most common cancer among men and women.
- The incidence of melanoma has been dramatically increasing over the past 30 years.
- Everyone is at some risk for melanoma, but increased risk depends on several factors: sun exposure, number of moles on the skin, skin type and family history (genetics).
- Melanoma accounts for up to 3% of all pediatric cancers. The treatment of childhood melanoma is often delayed due to misdiagnosis of pigmented lesions, which occurs up to 40% of the time.
The best way to avoid sunburn, wrinkles, skin cancer, and other damage is to stay out of the daylight between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m, when the sun’s rays are strongest. If you need to be outside, use a broad spectrum sunscreen with SPF 30, stay hydrated and cover up.