Health Tips

Oh, Sunny Day

RSWLiving - - Department­s - BY ED BR OTAK

Come to Sunny South­west Florida.” That’s not just a come- on slo­gan for tourists. It re­ally is sunny down here. Of­fi­cially, the state gets about 3,000 hours of sun­shine a year. That means the sun is out nearly 70 per­cent of the time. You can bump that per­cent­age up even a lit­tle higher in the win­ter, the peak of the vis­i­tor sea­son, when there’s less cloud cover to hide the sun. Even in the wet­ter sum­mer months, you of­ten get hours of sun be­fore clouds de­velop in the af­ter­noon. A sunny day makes you feel bet­ter, and sun­light helps the body make vi­ta­min D. But, be warned, you can get too much of a good thing.

“Many South­west Florid­i­ans en­joy the year- round out­door life­style— fish­ing, boat­ing, golf, ten­nis,” says Dr. An­drea Cam­bio, med­i­cal di­rec­tor of Cam­bio Der­ma­tol­ogy in Cape Co­ral. “It is im­por­tant to pro­tect our­selves from the dan­gers of sun ex­po­sure.”

Part of that sun­light we l ove i s com­posed of ul­travi­o­let rays known as UVA and UVB. These are the rays that af­fect the skin. “It is not un­com­mon for vis­i­tors to for­get how pow­er­ful the rays are,” says Dr. Ti­mothy Dougherty, med­i­cal di­rec­tor for the Cape Co­ral Hospi­tal Emer­gency Depart­ment. “I have taken care of sev­eral pa­tients who have suf­fered first- de­gree ( red­ness, pain) and/ or sec­ond- de­gree ( blis­ter­ing of the skin) sun­burn.”

But sun­burn is not the only dam­age the sun’s rays can do to the skin. “Ul­travi­o­let light is di­rectly re­spon­si­ble for our skin’s ag­ing and wrin­kling,” says Cam­bio, “but also for skin cancer— the most com­mon type of cancer.” And me­lanoma, the more deadly skin cancer, can re­sult from just a few ex­treme sun­burns. Cam­bio rec­om­mends an an­nual skin check by a der­ma­tol­o­gist.

The hours around noon are when the sun’s UV rays are the strong­est.

“The higher the an­gle of the sun, the more in­tense the UV ex­po­sure,” points out Melissa L. Grif­fin, as­sis­tant state cli­ma­tol­o­gist for Florida. “On the sum­mer sol­stice, the sun is nearly over­head,” she adds. Ac­tu­ally for much of the sum­mer, UV rays are po­tent. “We are the clos­est you can get to the equa­tor while still be­ing in the con­ti­nen­tal United States,” says Grif­fin. She also warns that even days with light cloud cover can have high UV ex­po­sure and cause sun­burns. Keep in mind that UV rays re­flect off the sparkling white- sand beaches and glis­ten­ing Gulf wa­ter.

To bet­ter in­form the pub­lic about the risk of ul­travi­o­let rays, the UV In­dex was de­vel­oped. The in­dex gives a nu­mer­i­cal value to the ex­pected max­i­mum UV risk for a day. Val­ues can range from 0 ( at night) to 16 ( sum­mer in the trop­ics). The Na­tional Weather Ser­vice pro­duces UV In­dex fore­casts daily, and most of your typ­i­cal weather re­ports ( news­pa­pers, ra­dio and tele­vi­sion) will in­clude them. The UV In­dex can start hit­ting 9 in March

in South­west Florida, and dur­ing the sum­mer months, it can rou­tinely reach 11, the ex­treme zone.

To pro­tect yourself from those harm­ful UV rays seek shade when the sun is the strong­est, be­tween 10 a. m. and 4 p. m. If you must be out­doors, Cam­bio ad­vises us­ing a sun­screen with an SPF of 30 or higher. “Reap­ply the sun­screen a min­i­mum of ev­ery two hours while out­doors,” she rec­om­mends, along with wear­ing sun­pro­tec­tive cloth­ing.

To­day, there’s a wide va­ri­ety of stylish cloth­ing lines that are specif­i­cally cre­ated to pro­vide UV sun pro­tec­tion. On Sani­bel Is­land, you can find great out­door at­tire at Ad­ven­tures in Par­adise out­fit­ters in the Tahi­tian Shop­ping Cen­ter. “We carry quick dry shirts, shorts, pants and wide­brim hats, all of which pro­vide a sun­pro­tec­tion rat­ing of UPF30 and UPF50,” says Josh Ste­wart, who works at the fam­ily’s store. “We also carry the ul­tra­p­o­lar­ized, high- per­for­mance sun­glass line that is per­fect when on the wa­ter or in the sun all day,” he adds. Since UV ex­po­sure con­trib­utes to the de­vel­op­ment of cer­tain types of cataracts, sun­glasses are a must for any­one go­ing out in Florida’s sun­shine.

Those who work out­doors, boat cap­tains and fish­ing guides, are al­ways happy to share sound ad­vice. “Out on the wa­ter for some­times as long as nine hours, I al­ways make sure to wear a hat, sun­glasses and es­pe­cially sun­screen,” says Capt. Noah, head cap­tain for Ad­ven­tures in Par­adise, a Sani­bel- based tour­ing and fish­ing busi­ness. “And I pre­fer to use a sun­block that is not harm­ful to the sea life and reefs.”

Capt. Noah re­al­izes that many of his cus­tomers are so ex­cited about their fish­ing trips that pro­tect­ing them­selves from the sun is of­ten over­looked. “We sug­gest to bring and wear sun­screen and that wear­ing wide- brim hats will help. We sup­ply um­brel­las for our guests. I ad­vise guests that we have a very in­tense trop­i­cal sun, so ev­ery pre­cau­tion needs to be taken to pro­tect their skin, and es­pe­cially im­por­tant is pro­tect­ing the small chil­dren,” he em­pha­sizes.

With the right safe­guards, you can en­joy yourself in the abun­dant Florida sun­shine and still stay healthy. And if you’re think­ing about that tan, for­get it. As Cam­bio likes to say: “There is no such thing as a safe tan.”

When in the sun, pro­tect your skin by wear­ing shirts made of fabrics with tight weave con­struc­tion, UV ab­sorbers and UV re­flec­tors.

Be­low: Ster­ling Novotny, eco­tour guide of Ad­ven­tures Kayak­ing, en­cour­ages folks to wear po­lar­ized sun­glasses, wide- brim hats, sun­block shirts and even long pants when out on the wa­ter.

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