Having your fair share of fun in the sun goes hand in hand with the Florida summer experience. However, as temperatures steadily increase, it’s important to practice UV safety when participating in outdoor activities.
The sunlight we receive comes in the form of UV Rays, which are comprised of three spectrums:
- UVA rays penetrate deep into the layers of the skin.
- UVB rays affect the outermost layer of the body
- UVC rays (mentioned for reference) are the strongest of the spectrum; however, they are blocked nearly entirely by the ozone layer in the atmosphere.
Both UVA & UVB rays promote many benefits to the human body. After all, a day in the sun almost always brings about a boost in mood and energy.
Studies have shown that moderate & healthy sunlight exposure is highly beneficial to the human brain, improving mood and cognition. When sunlight reaches the retina, it stimulates the central neuroendocrine system, promoting regulation and homeostasis. One example of how UV rays regulate the body is the regulation of the body’s circadian rhythm to help naturally adjust between sleep and wake times for a better sleep experience.
Enjoying a nice dose of sun exposure at the same time every morning is a great way to take advantage of the healthy benefits of UV rays. If you are having trouble with sleep during the summer due to longer daylight hours, exposing your eyes to natural sunlight every day (in the early hours) of the morning can help natural melatonin production at night.
Safe sunlight exposure during the summer has biological benefits too. When the skin is exposed to natural sunlight (at the early or late hours of the day), it triggers a chemical reaction within the skin cells to begin converting UVB rays into previtamin D3, which then isomerizes into the Vitamin D hormone.
This natural vitamin D production process promotes healthy immune function within the body. More circulating Vitamin D in the body means improved cellular health, brain function, skeletal health (reduces osteoporosis risk), and hormone synthesis.
Too much of a good thing is never a good idea.
Excessive UV exposure has several downsides, and it is vital to know how much is just too much.
Excessive exposure to UVA rays has been linked to premature signs of aging and wrinkles over time. Because UVA rays penetrate deep into the innermost layers of the skin, UVA damage may not be immediately apparent because these rays cause damage at a cellular level.
On the other hand, UVB rays affect the outermost layer of the skin, leading to the most common and obvious signs of sun damage, such as sunburn in the skin and eyes, peeling, and sunspots.
How much is too much?
UV rays are extremely powerful and penetrate deep into the atmosphere; this makes the rays strong even on an overcast or cloudy day. During the summer, the potency is heightened, which calls for extra precaution. Too much UV exposure doesn’t have to come in the form of tanning at the beach for hours to bring side effects; simply sitting outside unprotected during peak sunlight hours can be enough to get side effects.
If you suffer from migraines, unprotected UV exposure can certainly be a trigger. Headaches can develop due to potent UV exposure via the scalp, the skin, or the eyes. Heat exhaustion and dehydration are also side effects of too much exposure to the sun.
How to protect yourself & your family
It is always recommended to practice safe sun exposure habits such as applying broad-spectrum (UVA & UVB protectant) sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher daily. When active outdoors, it is recommended to stay within shaded areas as much as possible and avoid major outdoor activities between 10 am-4 pm (when UV light is strongest).
Wearing UPF (ultraviolet protection factor) clothing and hats is another way to protect areas of the body that aren’t usually covered by sunscreen, like the scalp and ears. If you have a history of summer migraine attacks, taking extra precautions with hydration and eye protection is crucial.
For more resources on how to stay healthy this summer, check out these Neurology Office Resources:
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A message from Dr. Kandel
“Summertime is the time to kick back, relax, and enjoy oneself. Appropriate hydration, liberal use of sunscreen, and a commonsense approach to limiting outdoor activities during peak sunlight exposure allow you to enjoy your summer, reap the benefits of sun exposure, and avoid the risk of excess of sun exposure! However, as grandma used to say, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”
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