Summer Sun Safety

sunshine-summerSummer in the Northwest brings a variety of outdoor activities, which results in higher sun exposure. At this time of year, it is important to remember the good and bad results of increased sun exposure to keep you and your family safe.

VITAMIN D is produced by our skin after exposure to sunlight; therefore summer is a great time to increase your body’s production. This vitamin plays an important role in controlling your immune system, bone health, and hormone production. Healthy levels of vitamin D are important for everyone, but especially for people with autoimmune diseases or chronic diseases. If you don’t know your vitamin D levels, consider asking your doctor about having this tested.

MOOD SUPPORT is generally noticed during the sunny seasons. During the winter months, Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is common and results in many people feeling depressed or unmotivated. This is naturally alleviated during the Spring and Summer as the sun begins to shine more often. If you suffer from this condition, consider talking to your doctor about ways to cope during the winter months.

SUNBURN is an inflammatory reaction of the skin cells from excessive exposure to UV rays. It is usually temporary and the redness and pain will resolve within a couple of days. Serious sunburns include blistering and peeling of the skin, which takes longer to heal and can cause more complications. The more sunburns a person has in their lifetime, the higher their risk of skin cancer and pre-cancerous skin conditions. People with naturally lighter skin tones will burn more easily.


-Watch your dose: know your limit to sun exposure and limit your unprotected outdoor time accordingly. People with lighter skin can tolerate less sun exposure than people with darker skin.

-Cover up: a wide brimmed hat and a shirt with sleeves can do wonders for sun protection. Also consider coverage from an umbrella or other shade if you will be outside for a longer duration.

-Stay hydrated: generally I recommend 1/2 of your weight in ounces of water per day (ie if you weigh 150lbs, you drink 75oz of water per day). When you are outside sweating, the needed amount can increase greatly. Also, remember to add a glass of water for every alcoholic or caffeinated drink you consume.

-Sunscreen: I recommend wearing sunscreen if you will be out in the sun for more than 30 minutes (or less if you are very fair skinned). Look for an SPF 20-30 sunblock, anything higher is not necessary. There is quite a bit of controversy over which sunscreen is the safest. I think that decision depends on your priorities. Please look into the database and articles on the Environmental Working Group website to read more:

Published by Wildflower Natural Medicine

I am a naturopathic physician in Portland, OR.