A few weeks ago, I got to participate in an event that combined three of my very favorite things: running, talking to people about healthy habits, and waking up suuuper early in the morning.
OK, well, I have three young kids – waking up suuuper early isn’t so much my favorite thing as it is just the way mornings go at our house. But, I really do love running and talking about wellness, so I was excited to get to host the training group from The Runner’s Edge at our Shawnee Mission Primary Care – Blue Valley clinic a few Saturdays ago. Before the group headed out for their (suuuper early) training run, I talked with them for a few minutes about the nuances of sun protection for athletes.
I wanted to share those same tips with you all—especially those of you who are spending these sweltering summer days outside, being active. Here are four things to keep in mind:
- Even if you can’t see the sun, it can see you: Don’t be fooled by overcast skies: you can still get sunburned. That’s why we say to always wear sunscreen if you are going to be outside – and make sure it’s labeled “broad spectrum” so you’re protected from both UVA and UVB rays. And, whether it’s sunny or not, you don’t have to be out in the sun very long for it to start doing damage to your skin.
- If you sweat, reapply sunscreen often: The general rule is to apply sunscreen 30 minutes before going outside and then reapply every two hours. BUT, if you’re out exercising in the heat, you are probably sweating. (Side note: if you’re not sweating, that’s a bad sign and could indicate heat stroke, in which case you need to get to the hospital ASAP.) If you are sweating, you should apply sunscreen even more frequently than every two hours.
- Watch your moles and markings: Skin cancer is an often underestimated disease: one person dies of melanoma every hour in the U.S. Check your own skin regularly for any changes to moles or other markings. And have a thorough check done annually by a health care professional; your primary care doctor can do a screening and will refer you to a dermatologist if she thinks you need a more in-depth assessment.
- Don’t forget about your ears, eyes and lips: When you’re sunscreening your face, remember to throw some lotion on your ears. And make sure your lip balm has SPF – not all of them do, even some of the fancy, expensive ones. To protect your eyes, wear sunglasses that are designed to block UV rays and/or a visor or ball cap.
Please be safe and smart about protecting your skin – and the rest of yourself – from sun damage. If you need to get checked out, make an appointment with your primary care provider or come see me or another Shawnee Mission Primary Care physician. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need a nap…in the shade, of course.
Lauren Bessey, DO, is a family medicine physician at Shawnee Mission Primary Care-Blue Valley. You can find her on the web or make an appointment with her by calling the ASK-A-NURSE Resource Center at 913-676-7777.