Many European visitors who take time to grace the motherland often speak highly and fondly of the African sun.
They marvel at its beauty and the joy it builds within them.
This can be attributed to the fact that the mother of all sources of light is not a common sight in their places of inhabitation.
However, that same sun which brings so much joy to mankind is a ticking time bomb that can explode on anyone who is ignorant of the potential danger posed by its rays.
This article is not designed to make you afraid of the sun. We need it! I’m a big proponent of conservative daily sunshine for vitamin D production.
Sunshine only becomes unhealthy when you get excessive exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays, which can lead to skin damage, or worse, skin cancer. There is a need to stay hydrated and safe from the sun, as we enjoy the out door activities this summer.
There are two types of UV rays namely UVA and UVB. These terrible twins can be a menace.
UVB rays remain on the skin surface causing it to tan and burn, while UVA rays penetrate deeper into the dermis and collagen fibers causing more long-term effects, like premature aging, wrinkles, brown spots and skin cancer.
Both types of UV radiation lead to an increased risk of developing skin cancer, which is now one of the most common type of cancer.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) states that the rise in the incidence of skin cancers over the past decades is strongly related to increasingly popular outdoor activities and recreational exposure.
The global health watchdog further reports that overexposure to sunlight is widely accepted as the underlying cause for harmful effects on the skin, eye and immune system.
Experts believe that four out of five cases of skin cancer could be prevented, as UV damage is mostly avoidable.
As the continent braces for the summer season where temperatures usually sky rocket to unprecedented levels, locals and visitors to the continent alike should be wary of the devastating effects of the sun’s rays and take necessary precautionary measures.
Temperatures in the lowlands of West Africa are high throughout the year, with annual means usually above 18°C. In the Sahel, maximum temperatures can reach above 40°C.
Down south, temperatures can also be painfully unforgiving. South Africa’s highest recorded temperature in summer was close to 48ºC, occurred in both the Northern Cape and Mpumalanga.
The highest temperature recorded anywhere in the world was at Al’Aziziya, Libya, which reached 57.8°C (136°F) on September 13, 1922.
To protect one’s skin from the damaging rays of the sun, one needs to find help from sunscreens.
Also known as sunblock and suntan lotion, sunscreen is a lotion, spray, gel or other topical product that absorbs or reflects some of the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) radiation and thus helps protect against sunburn, especially for fair-skinned individuals.
Sunscreens are at present graded with a sun protection factor (SPF), a laboratory measure that assesses its ability to filter out harmful rays.
The sun protection number (SPF) suggests how long it will take a protected sunbather’s skin to burn compared with someone out in the sun without a sunscreen. The higher the SPF number, the more protection you should get.
For example, SPF20 means one can spend 20 times as long in the sun than if he was unprotected before getting burned.
It is advisable that sun bathers buy a sunscreen which offers broad-spectrum protection to ward off both UVA and UVB rays.
Sunscreen, in combination with other precautions such as increased consumption of water, can help avoid the unpleasant effects of red, burning skin, heatstroke and heat exhaustion which arise from extended sun exposure.
Research has also found out that herbs and herbal preparations have a high potential of dealing with sun’s rays due to their antioxidant activity, primarily.
Many studies showed that green and black tea (polyphenols) enhance adverse skin reactions following UV exposure.
The gel from aloe is also believed to stimulate skin and assist in new cell growth while Spectrophotometer testing indicates that as a concentrated extract of Krameria triandra, absorbs 25 to 30percent of the amount of UV radiation typically absorbed by octyl methoxycinnamate.
Sesame oil resists 30percent of UV rays, while coconut, peanut, olive, and cottonseed oils block out about 20percent according to research findings.
The foods you eat can seriously reduce your risk for sunburn, sun damage, and skin cancer by supporting your skin’s ability to remain healthy and defend itself against too much sun.
Health experts propose the following foods during the summer season; citrus fruit, carrots, strawberries, pomegranates, red grapes, tomatoes, watermelon among others.
Insulating your house also works wonders during summer. The fewer air leaks and the more insulation you have, the easier it will be to keep your house cool in the summer and warm in the winter.
Having reflective roof paint can make a substantial difference—and, especially, keeping sunlight from shining in through your windows which should be opened strategically that is when it is cooler outside than in.