So, are you ready for the summer, sunscreen and bug spray?

Summer is finally here. So are the ultraviolet rays (UVR) and the mosquitoes.

Exposure to sun’s rays can be healthy and harmful. There are more than 25 human disorders that are either caused by or aggravated by exposure of the skin to sunlight. But exposure to sunlight is also the most potent and natural way to manufacture vitamin D in our body.

Our skin can be protected from the harmful effects of UVR by use of sunscreens. Chemical sunscreens were discovered in 1926. Subsequent sunscreen evolution was primarily directed toward ultraviolet B (UVB) protection to lessen development of sunburn from overexposure to the sun.

There are many different brands of sunscreen available. Sunscreen should be efficient, water resistant and safe. It should spread easily, maximize skin adherence, should be non-stinging, non-staining, and inexpensive. Most popular sunscreens are available in creams and lotions. Lotions spread more easily.

Many sunscreens do not block UVA radiation, which does not cause sunburn but can increase the rate of melanoma, so people using sunscreens may be exposed to a high level UVA without realizing it.

The ability of a sunscreen to protect the skin from UVR-induced skin redness is measured by the SPF. The redness is from sunburn. SPF 15 blocks 93 per cent of UVB. Some argue that SPF 15 is sufficient and that higher labeling claims are misleading and costly for consumers. But some studies have shown that higher SPF (SPF 30) sunscreens conferred better benefits.

The SPF varies depending on the nature of the sun blocking ingredients in the product. Since the SPF refers only to protection against UVB, it is important to choose a “broad spectrum”
sunscreen that also protects you from UVA radiation. Also check if they are water resistant and follow the instructions on the product label on how often to apply for best results.

It is important to note that while sunscreens can help reduce sunburn, they are not as effective against the other harmful effects of UV rays, like premature aging of the skin and depression of the immune system.

Recurrent sunburn causes permanent damage to the skin and causes skin cancers. You should avoid sunburn by other means wearing appropriate clothing, wide-brimmed hat and appropriate sunglasses and avoid sun exposure between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m.

Do not forget about mosquitoes and West Nile virus. Canada had its first confirmed cases of West Nile virus in 2002. For most Canadians, the risk of illness from West Nile virus is low, but it is important to minimize your risk. Use insect repellents and wear light-colored long-sleeved shirts, long pants, and a hat when outdoors. Limit the time you spend outdoors at dawn and dusk, when mosquitoes are most active.

Enjoy the summer but be safe.

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