Health Beat: Summer sunshine brings summer fun, but also health risks

Photo by Sunny studio/
Photo by Sunny studio/

By Giovanna-Reyes-Alexander
Health Promotion Program Assistant Volunteer

As summertime time is finally here, our daily activities may begin to shift to the outdoors with the warmer temperatures and sunny days. Outdoor activities are a great way to get and stay in shape as well as to build stronger relationships with family and friends. During these hotter summer months however it is important that safe practices are used when enjoying the sun.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and prevention, the suns’ ultra violet rays can cause damage to your skin in as little as 15 minutes. There are 2 types of ultra violet radiation produced by the sun, UVA rays and UVB rays. These are both responsible for causing skin cancer as well as a weakened immune system. Furthermore, UVA rays lead to skin aging while UVB rays are the cause of sun burns.

The CDC estimates that more than one million Americans are diagnosed with skin cancer every year. Skin cancer and other injuries related to sun over-exposure such as heat stroke, sun burns and heat exhaustion are largely preventable by taking sensible precautions.

It is important to note that everyone is susceptible to the damaging effects of over-exposure to the sun regardless of race or ethnicity. Many in the Stuttgart community are avid travelers, whether here in Germany and Europe, back home to the U.S. to visit our loved ones, or to some other exotic location. There are some areas and activities however which increase one’s risk of sun over-exposure. These include destinations near to the equator or at high altitudes and activities such as sailing, surfing and spending time at the beach.

On very sunny days, the reflection of the sun off the water or even the snow can cause damage. What may be more surprising is that even on cloudy days when it is least expected, UV rays can cause damage as persons are less likely to take precautions because sun exposure is not apparent and uncomfortable.

Protect yourself from overexposure to the sun by following the tips offered by the American Cancer Society at

While skin cancers are often the most highlighted risk of over-exposure to the sun, it is important to be aware of other serious risks associated with sun exposure such as heat-related illnesses from high temperatures are more common in the summer months. According to the CDC, muscle cramping may be the first sign of heat-related illness and may lead to heat exhaustion and heat stroke.

Heat exhaustion is a milder form of heat-related illness that results from several days of exposure to high temperatures and inadequate or unbalanced replacement of fluids. Heat stroke is the most serious heat-related illness and occurs when the body is unable to control its temperature. Symptoms of heat exhaustion include heavy sweating, weakness, cold, pale clammy skin, fast or weak pulse, nausea/vomiting and fainting. Symptoms of heat stroke include body temperatures of 103 degrees Fahrenheit or higher, hot, red, dry or moist skin, a rapid and strong pulse as well as possible unconsciousness.

Symptoms of heat injuries:
Heat cramps:
Painful cramps, especially in the legs
Flushed, moist skin
Heat Exhaustion:
Muscle cramps
Pale, moist skin
Usually has a fever over 100.4° F (or 34° C)
Anxiety, and faint feeling

Heat Stroke:
Warm, dry skin
High fever, usually over 104° F (or 40° C)
Rapid heart rate
Loss of appetite
Seizures, coma, and death are possible

Heat stroke is a medical emergency and emergency medical services should be called immediately in cases of heat stroke.