Contributed by- Dr Pooja Chaudhary
Sunshine – the most important thing for living beings. Is it really a blessing? Have you ever speculated about the possible benefits and the harmful effects of sun exposure?
Ever since childhood, we have been told that sunlight is the most important thing as it keeps us energized all day long. While sun exposure is good for us, but too much of it can do us more harm than good. Hence one should have a moderate amount of sun exposure so that they can absorb the maximum benefits of sunlight and can avoid harmful effects.
There are pieces of evidence that prove sun exposure has benefits, but still, many experts are rethinking their staunch for sun-avoidance advice. Let’s look at the various benefits as well as the possible harmful effects of exposure to sunlight.
Benefits of Sunlight
This modern world is paranoid about following our ancient beliefs and rituals, and one such thing is the healing properties of sunlight. In the west, sunlight therapy has been used from the ancient Greek times and was termed as Helios. These days this sunlight therapy has been named as Heliotherapy; hence it justifies the importance of sunlight.
A moderate amount of sunlight (approximate 10-15 minutes daily) can help in extracting all its healing properties, as exposure to sunlight helps in the release of the Serotonin, a hormone in the brain. This hormone is linked with mood booster and calming effects on a person. Without sun exposure or sunlight, the serotonin level dips down and can be responsible for significant depression. The several health benefits associated with the exposure to a moderate amount of the sun are:
- Vitamin D production: When the sunshine hits our skin, it triggers the synthesis of vitamin that is the reason Vitamin D is called the sunlight vitamin.
- It helps in killing harmful bacteria and is also used to disinfect and heal the wound.
- Sunlight has a beneficial effect on various forms of skin disorders like psoriasis, acne, eczema and fungal infections.
- Sunlight helps in lowering the cholesterol levels. The sun rays convert the high cholesterol levels in the blood into steroid and sex hormone. In the absence of sunlight, these hormones get converted into cholesterol.
- Sun rays help in lowering the blood pressure levels, in people suffering from high blood pressure levels.
- Sun rays have deep penetration into the skin and help in cleansing the skin and blood vessels.
- Sunlight increases the oxygen levels in the blood. It increases the body’s capacity to deliver oxygen into the tissues.
- Sunlight helps in making the immune system strong.
- Sunlight exposure in children helps in increasing their growth and height.
- It also helps in curing depression.
Harmful effects of sun exposure
While sunlight benefits the overall health of an individual, there is no getting away from the fact that it can be harsh on the skin. The sun rays produce harmful UV radiation, causing sunburn skin; it can also damage the DNA and suppress the immunity. The longer is the penetration of UV wavelengths, there will be the creation of highly reactive oxygen molecules, which can damage the skin cell membranes and the DNA.
The main risk factor for UV radiation is sunburn, premature skin ageing, skin cancer from the sun. The harmful effects of UV rays are as follows:
- Sunburn widespread side effects of excessive sun exposure.
- Wrinkles or skin ageing can be the consequences of excessive exposure to sun rays.
- Long-term exposure to UV radiation can lead to damage to the retina present in the eyes.
- Long hours exposure in the sun can lead to heat exhaustion; the main symptoms include headache, nausea, weakness, dizziness, irritability, excessive sweating, thirst, etc.
- If heat exhaustion is left untreated, it can lead to a heat stroke, which can be very serious and can be potentially life-threatening.
- Heat rashes can also occur when sweat gets trapped under the skin due to perspiration in the sun.
- Skin cancer like Basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, malignant melanoma are the consequences of long-term exposure to the sun radiations.
It is vital to keep a trail on the various symptoms of sunburn and consult a doctor if needed.
Protection from the sun
Protection from the sun is critical and needs to be given a lot of importance. Damage from the sun rays can be prevented by applying sunscreen, at least 20 minutes before going out in the sun. There should be a re-application of the sunscreen after every 2 hours in the sun and even after swimming or heavy sweating. Apart from that, other preventive measures are as follows:
- UV filtering sunglasses
- Long sleeved clothes
- Avoid long hours in the sun
- Sit under the shade
- Use umbrellas when out in the sun
A moderate amount of sun exposure can be the right way to enjoy the brightness of sunshine!
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