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Ginta — The sun is your friend until it’s not

Daniela Ginta writes for The Armchair Mayor News each Friday.

COLUMN — Every time I have to drive somewhere midday I’m in the hot seat, literally. It is the time of day when holding the steering wheel without cringing is a feat of strength, 1:30 p.m. or so. Hot has got something to learn from Kamloops in summer, that’s for sure.

Yet despite the piercing hot sun rays bolting from the sky, the wading pool at Prince Charles Park is brimming with water and kids, lots of them. The pool is in full sun, and while I am sure that everyone is taking temporary shelter under the park trees at times, the midday exposure of children to the hottest sun there is still there and many do it daily.

Gintahed1Being out and about during summer months is what people do, especially with children, but when does it become too much?

According to many regulatory bodies, including the Canadian Cancer Society and Health Canada, exposure to sun should be avoided, by children especially, during the hottest window of the day which is between 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

If your worries take cover under the comfort of using sunscreen you should know that sunscreen will not block the harmful effects of the sun, and there are many, the most notable one being an increased risk of skin cancer. Overexposure to ultraviolet radiation accounts for almost 90 percent of the melanoma cases in North America, the deadliest of all skin cancers. So while applying sunscreen is recommended, the scorching and quite malefic powers of the midday sun will not be appeased by any lotion.

It’s not about living in fear instead of enjoying the summer days while they last. People work in full sun, people camp and hike and travel, and life cannot be put on hold just because it’s hot. But here’s what a recent report by the Canadian Cancer Society said: it is the intermittent, intense exposure that poses the highest risk when it comes to melanoma, rather than the continuous exposure that people who work outside all day would be subjected to.

Children should be out during the day, but shade is where they should be midday. Being in water increases the amount of UV radiation, as some of it will be reflected by the water. A worst case of double whammy if I had to name one. For all of us, not only for children.

But the sun is not the enemy, it never has been. We need it for food, warmth, light, vitamin D and energy production. Sun is vital to life and there is nothing can replace it. Yet as with so many other things in life, moderation is key.

Another dark side of sun exposure is still with us though we know more nowadays about healthy skin and the perils of too much UV radiation.

I grew up with people chasing a tanned skin like their life depended on it (the opposite may be true, unfortunately). Often times, you’d see some lobster-red bodies still, midday or not, a forgotten white line of a bathing suit reminding of the starting point. Burns like that are a sign of possible future trouble, never of future beautiful skin.

Tanning beds and sun lamps are no better either. Recent studies made the International Agency for Research on Cancer to upgrade its classification of tanning beds from a probable carcinogen to a known carcinogen. What takes longer to change is the perception of beauty in today’s world, especially among teenagers. With messages bombarding them from all directions, pressure is at an all time to look as attractive as possible, tanned skin included.

No matter how we twist it, the reality of ‘have your cake and eat it too’ does not hold for sun exposure. Whether you lathered half the sunscreen container onto your skin or your kids’, protection from the midday burning sun happens only in the shade.

For your sake and your children’s, do it. There’s always books to read, chats to be had, visits to the library or friends to visit. As for the fun in the sun, have it in early morning and late afternoon. Enjoy, but leave clothing and hat on. It’s worth it.

Daniela Ginta is a mother, scientist, writer and blogger. She can be reached at daniela.ginta@gmail.com, or through her blog at http://www.thinkofclouds.com.

About Mel Rothenburger (7707 Articles)
ArmchairMayor.ca is a forum about Kamloops and the world. It has more than one million views. Mel Rothenburger is the former Editor of The Daily News in Kamloops, B.C. (retiring in 2012), and past mayor of Kamloops (1999-2005). At ArmchairMayor.ca he is the publisher, editor, news editor, city editor, reporter, webmaster, and just about anything else you can think of. He is grateful for the contributions of several local columnists. This blog doesn't require a subscription but gratefully accepts donations to help defray costs.

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