The Patient's Guide to ...
SUMMER SUN SAFETY
NATIONAL IMMUNIZATION MONTH
Summer Sun Safety Month
Retaining sunlight and spending time outside does have its physical and mental benefits such as stress relief and soaking up vitamin D, but through the warmer months of May to August, ultraviolet (UV) rays are at its strongest and there is a high chance of being exposed to it. It is important to learn the signs from staying in the sun for too long and causing a lot of damage to your skin. There are two types of ultraviolet rays: UVA and UVB. UVA rays are the least harmful, but they can still cause wrinkles and other signs of premature aging. UVB rays are more intense, causing DNA damage which leads to blistering sunburns. Even if you don't notice any immediate effects, staying in the sun without protection can lead to skin cancer in the form of melanomas, premature aging of the skin (wrinkles), eye damage such as vision loss (cataracts), and can weaken your body’s ability to have a proper working immune system.
It's important to know the signs of damage so you can protect yourself from harmful rays this summer!
Factors that affect UV rays:
1. Time of day, usually around the hours of 10 A.M to 4 P.M. is when the sun is at its peak. The UV index on a scale of 1-11+ estimates radiation levels and measures the strength from the lowest to highest number on the scale.
2. Distance from the equator (the closer you are to the equator, the more intense your UV rays)
3. Cloud cover (rays can peak through even though clouds cover direct sunlight)
4. Reflection of surfaces that causes UV to bounce off (surfaces like water or sand reflect more than dry land)
5. Altitude depending on how close you are to the sun
Either child or adult, the sun can cause burning and potential damage to your skin. There are different degrees of sunburns that go from the first to fourth degree. The most extreme type of sun burn impairs bones and joints and burns through all layers of the skin, if this happens it is extremely important to seek immediate medical care. People of all colors and skin types are at risk for skin cancer and accelerated skin aging from spending time in the sun, but there are steps to take to reduce your risk.
You can limit your time in the sun especially when the UV rays are at their strongest, which you should check the index and apply sunscreen. You can also protect yourself by covering any skin exposed to the sun such as eyes, arms, legs, face, and even the scalp. Sun-protective clothing (pants, broad-brim hats, long sleeve shirts) is now available but only for intended medical use regulated by the FDA. The use of broad-spectrum sunscreen used regularly and consistently before going into the sun. There are multiple levels to getting coverage from UV rays with the lowest being at 15 SPF to 50 SPF and over. You should read the label to ensure you use your sunscreen correctly before applying it on infants younger than 6 months old.
If you do experience a blistering and painful sunburn, there are ways to reduce the affected area(s) at home:
Aloe Vera - One of the most common types of remedies for sunburns is the use of aloe vera. This plant soothes the burn as well as helps your skin retain lost moisture
Apple Cider Vinegar – Known for its inflammation and antiseptic properties, this natural astringent hastens the healing process to skin cells
Tea – Prepare and cool either chamomile, green, or black tea and apply directing to the burnt area with a cloth soaked in the blend of herbs
Ice- By either placing ice in a bath or using frozen food packaging, the cooling will help lessen the heat of the burn as well as keeping the itching at bay when directly placed on the skin
Hydrate – Sunburn pulls the liquids in the body to the surface of the skin and deprives the body and skin of moisture and fluids that leads to dehydration. Drinking more water aids in retaining electrolytes and induces a faster healing
National Immunization Month
August kicks off National Immunization Month which is an annual observance to emphasize the significance of vaccinations and its safety for all ages. Stated by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), thousands of Americans get sick each year from illnesses and diseases that could have been prevented with vaccination. Most pharmacies carry vaccines for sicknesses such as recent COVID-19 and the flu that occurs around the months of September through March.
The CDC states that "vaccines are among the safest, most effective preventive health care products ever developed." In addition, hundreds of thousands of children suffer from permanent disabilities caused by many preventable diseases. It is important to note that some vaccines require several doses over time before they become effective.
Some pharmacies carry the necessary shots during specific times of the year, but if yours does not carry the specific vaccine then you can find them at other locations such as grocery stores or even your doctor's office!
How to observe National Immunization Month:
National Immunization Month is the perfect time to make sure you and your family are up to date on your vaccinations.
It's important to remember that some of the diseases we've been vaccinated against aren't as common as they used to be, but there are still plenty of them out there. For example, measles is still a serious threat in other countries. Polio is another that is still prevalent cases have been increasing lately throughout the United States, which causes paralysis and death in other countries where vaccination isn't widespread yet.
Making sure they know what vaccines they've already received and which ones needed next, this is one of the best ways to insure protection. If you're not sure what vaccines you’ve received from your doctor or health care provider in the past, talk with them about getting a copy of your medical records to keep track of everything going forward!
Urge your friends and family to get vaccinated!
Why is this month important?
As much as it is important for adults to keep up to date with their vaccinations, but for children as well. The importance of infant immunizations is to protect babies from potentially life-threatening diseases. If a baby does not receive the necessary vaccines, they are at risk for amputation of their arm or leg, paralysis of limbs, hearing loss, convulsions, brain damage and even death.
Vaccinations are closely reviewed by doctors and scientists to ensure that they are safe as well as effective. Babies receive their first round of vaccines at two months old and then continue with additional doses throughout the first six years of their lives. These vaccines not only protect you against disease and illness, but they also protect those around you by keeping it dormant and nontransmissible to others!
Emily Conenna is a senior at Kutztown University of Pennsylvania with a major in Public Relations and a minor in Professional Writing. She has devoted much volunteer time to raising awareness about Cystic Fibrosis and other major diseases through her writing and social media work. Emily is the editor of the Patient Guide series.
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