In the grand scheme of things, Boston is not one of the areas of the country where people are terribly worried about sunlight. Between the cold, snowy winters and relatively cool summers, people just don’t think about protection from the damage that can be caused by the sun’s UV (ultraviolet) rays. This can be a mistake because the climate conditions found in Boston can actually be more damaging than hotter regions.
No, an hour of Boston sunlight isn’t necessarily more damaging than an hour of direct sunlight in the desert in Arizona, it’s just that the milder temperatures can fool people into staying out in direct sunlight longer without adequate protection. In other words, being in that Arizona desert where it feels like standing in front of an open oven or somewhere like Atlanta in the summer where the humidity in the air is so thick you can practically swim through it constantly reminds the body that there is a big ball of burning hydrogen blasting it with energy.
Boston, on the other hand, is comfortable. Standing under the rays of that same burning ball of hydrogen carries the same risk without the constant reminder that it can be dangerous.
Below are three tips that can allow anyone to enjoy that great weather without the short-term risk of sunburn and longer-term risk of skin cancer.
Always Use Sunscreen if Spending Time Outdoors
While the intensity of the sun’s rays varies with location, season and time of day, the simple truth is that enough direct sunlight will damage the body regardless of conditions. Thanks to this fact, it is a wise Bostonian who will break out sunscreen for that trip to the zoo or outdoor concert. As good as it feels to be outside on a sunny day, it is even better knowing there will be no negative health consequences thanks to just a few seconds taken to slather on some UV protection.
Be sure to choose a broad spectrum sunscreen. Some brands protect against UVA rays while completely ignoring UVB rays.
Watch Those Reflections
There are certain environmental factors that can radically increase the amount of UV light a person is being bombarded with. One of the most common is being near reflective surfaces. Water, sand, sidewalks – all of these things can reflect the ultraviolet light from the sun so a person standing near them is getting blasted from above and below.
While it is obviously impossible to completely avoid such reflective surfaces, it is a good idea to keep in mind that every hour spent surrounded by them causes far more exposure than an hour in a non-reflective environment like a grassy field, so shortening the time or increasing protection by frequently touching up sunscreen or wearing some protective clothing could be in order for long stretches of exposure.
Know Your Meds
This is one most people will never even consider. We all know that virtually all modern pharmaceuticals come with side effects that can be amusing, horrifying or amusingly horrifying. What most of us do not know is that some medications actually make those taking them more vulnerable to damage from UV exposure.
Anyone taking any medication who plans to spend significant time in the sun should check this possibility and take appropriate precautions.
Being in the sun is great. There is no reason for us to rush from shady spot to shady spot like a vampire who didn’t manage to make it home before sunrise. That said, protecting ourselves from the damaging ultraviolet light that comes with being in the sun is just one way we can ensure ourselves a happier, healthier life.