Healthy World: Tanning

Is sun-kissed skin necessarily a good thing? Consider the story about Patricia Krentcil, the mother in New Jersey, who was interviewed while undeniably sporting the worst tan ever. Krentcil was accused child endangerment, for allowing her six-year old daughter to use a tanning booth. What is with this obsession to be tan anyway?

Now that summer is around the corner, it is important to remember to enjoy the sun (and tanning booths) safely. Here are a few reminders, to play it safe while having fun:

Avoid peak UV exposure– Between 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. may not be the hottest part of the day, but it is the time of day with the most UV exposure. Take precautions if spending large amounts of time outside during these hours.

Prevent overheating – 2 to 5 p.m. is often the hottest part of the day, with UV exposure still very high. Heat illness and exhaustion take a lot longer to recover from, than avoiding in the first place. Take a break from heat, if possible, drink more fluids (preferably water), and avoid over-exertion. If starting to feel overheated, try to immediately get to a cooler environment and rehydrate.

Prevent sunburn – Prevent harmful UV rays from getting to skin in the first place. Some ideal clothing in hot and sunny weather would include a wide-brimmed hat and a white long-sleeved shirt. The hat covers a larger area of the head and shoulders, and white clothing will reflect some of the heat and UV rays. Also, use sunscreen at all times. In fact, use it even when it’s cloudy outside, because 40 percent of the sun’s UV rays still get to your skin on completely cloudy days.

Protect everyone, and especially children– babies under the age of six should be out of the sun at all times, and the highest UV protection possible should be used on children.

Wear sunglasses– Sunglasses aren’t just a statement of style! The eyes are vulnerable to UV harm as well. To help prevent cataracts, and even photokeratitis (sunburn of the cornea), wear eye protection with a 100% UV protection rating.

Tanning bed safety– Use specifically-made eye protection, set a timer, sanitize the bed, and since skin is the largest organ of the body, discuss tanning with your doctor before broiling your skin. Some medical conditions can actually be aggravated by excessive UV exposure.

Those with fair skin and hair should be the most careful, to avoid harmful conditions, but that doesn’t mean those with darker skin aren’t also at risk.

What do you think?