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Stay healthy when school's out for the summer

By Gabby Katz

Section: Arts

April 29, 2011

As we dust off our shorts and dig out those flip-flops, a twinge of excitement and sadness rushes across the campus as we realize the semester is almost over and the summer is here. Before I continue, I just want to thank everyone who reads my health column and the feedback people send me; I appreciate all your support and look forward to being your health columnist next year! Wrapping up this semester with nothing but the beach and a sunny Great Lawn on my mind, I thought I would leave you with some summer tips for keeping cool and hydrated while enjoying the outdoor sun.

When outside during the summer, it is important to protect yourself head-to-toe from the sun. Starting with the top of your head, heat and the sun’s UV rays can leave your hair dry and mad frizzy. The out of control Jew ’fro was so last season, so it is time to channel your inner Queen of England and pull out some fabulous hats. Other ways to protect your hair include protecting it from the sun by combing in some conditioner without washing it out before swimming in a pool or at the beach.

The easiest and most effective way to protect those flowing locks is to mix one teaspoon of sunscreen with an SPF of 25 or higher with one-half cup of water in a spray bottle and spray your hair every couple of hours while in the sun.

Moving down the head, your eyes—including the eyelid, cornea and lens—can be damaged by UV exposure. In some extreme cases, this can lead to cataracts later in life. Those eyeballs of yours can be protected by wearing sunglasses while outside with large lenses that block 99 to 100 percent of all UVA and UVB rays; usually when you buy them, they will be labeled with what kind of UV rays they block. I knew there was a reason women choose buggy-eyed sunglasses. To clarify, UVA rays are responsible for the “aging” effect, while UVB rays cause sunburn; however, both rays can cause skin cancer.

It’s therefore always important to wear sunscreen on your face with an SPF of 15 or higher every day, regardless of whether it is cloudy or sunny outside. Also, be aware that sunscreens labeled “water resistant” protect you for up to only 40 minutes in the water, while “waterproof” sunscreens protect you for up to 80 minutes in the water.

Moving to your body, it’s crucial to constantly implement sun protection methods every time you’re outside to reduce your risk of skin cancer and other sun-related illnesses like heat stroke. Ways to protect yourself include staying in shady, cooler places outside, constantly having cool water available to drink, wearing protective clothing and reapplying sunscreen often.

It’s mostly important just to be aware of your body; if you are feeling dizzy or faint, take a break and cool off from whatever outdoor activity you may be participating in. Although following the “Jersey Shore” cast is fun, Snooki’s love for tanning could quickly develop into a hatred for skin cancer. UVA rays oxidizing the melanin in our skin cause tanning. There is a reason we are always encouraged to eat ANTI-oxidants, as this oxidation could lead to skin cancer or deep wrinkling. Crocodile skin is not sexy, so just be smart about your habits right now to prevent these future dangers.

As mentioned in my previous articles, being outside is incredibly healthy, as it promotes physical activity and the production of Vitamin D, so you shouldn’t avoid the sun—just be smart little Brandeisians like you always are. Wishing everyone the best of luck on their finals and a relaxing, warm and, most importantly, healthy summer! As always, tune in for more health tips next semester and feel free to send me an e-mail at gkatz10@brandeis.edu during the summer with any health-related questions you may have!

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