For Marines in temperate climates, spring has finally arrived. After what may have been a long, harsh winter for many, the warmth of the season is eagerly welcomed. With the longer, brighter days, one needs to be prepared to manage a threat that is, quite literally, glaring in their face. The sun.
A number of risks present themselves in regard to sun exposure, although the vast majority can be managed with proper precaution. Studies have shown that the harmful rays from the sun may pose eye problems, damage your immune system, cause cancer, or simply create undesired aesthetic changes such as sun spots or leathery skin. With those things in mind, it is crucial to protect one's skin and health as they spend increased time outdoors, and consequently, find themselves exposed to the sun significantly more than in the winter months.
In order to reduce threats associated with the sun, it's important to keep in mind that individuals with fair skin, light (blonde, red, or light brown) hair, previous incidents of skin cancer, or a family history of skin cancer, will be at the highest risk. Additionally, some medications may cause increased sensitivity to the sun, so be certain to consult with doctors when starting new medication. In order to stave off damage or health concerns caused by the sun, consider the following recommendations:
Reduce time in the sun. The hours between 10:00 and 14:00 are generally when the sun’s rays are the strongest, and UV rays can still cause damage, even on cloudy days.
Dress with care. Clothing such as hats, long sleeves, and pants can be very valuable in guarding against exposure.
Utilize sunscreen. The FDA recommends a “sun protection factor” (SPF) of 15 or more, and “broad spectrum” protection guards against all types of sun-induced skin damage. Water resistant sunscreens are also recommended to extend each application. Make sure to apply sunscreen evenly over skin, do so 15 minutes before going outside, and reapply at least every two hours. Babies and children require extra care in the sun, so be extra mindful with all precautions.
Protect your eyes. Purchase sunglasses that offer 99 to 100 percent UV protection, and don’t hesitate to ask an eye care professional to test your sunglasses, if you don’t know the level of protection.
These suggestions can go a long way in preventing damage caused by sunlight, and Marines are encouraged to put them in to practice for themselves and their families. In addition to sun exposure, warmer temperatures at this time of year can lead to heat injuries. Be certain to avoid overheating and dehydration, in order to prevent heat exhaustion or heat stroke.
By all means, enjoy your fun in the sun; but be certain to exercise caution while doing so. Make this spring a safe one!