Sunburn Alert for Kids
As the song by Alice Copper harmonizes, “school’s out for summer”!
While that notion is welcomed news to your favorite student, it amazes me how ill-informed kids are as to why they need to wear a sunscreen.
Let’s consider the mathematics, chemistry and physics of the air to convince the kids they need to lather up every day.
First off, we focus on the mathematics. The sun is climbing higher and higher in the sky everyday here in June and that means we are getting more direct sunlight in our faces at this time of year.
From a trigonometric perspective, the so called sine of the angle that the sun makes with our eyes and the earth is getting larger every day. The larger that angle, the more burning power imparted on our skin.
Now in just 2 weeks, the sun will reach it’s northernmost point in our hemisphere. On June 21st the solstice will find the direct rays of sun 90 degrees overhead along the Tropic of Cancer. On that day, the sun will be at its most intense of the entire year in our part of the world.
That means the sun burn index for our region will register a perfect 10 on any sunshiny day from now until July 4th (roughly 3 weeks either side of the solstice).
Of course it is a rare summer day when skies are perfectly blue. Air pollutants gather on most days when the winds are light and the sun is out in force. That pollution colors the sky a hazy yellowish tint and provides the backdrop for those fiery summer sunsets and sunrises! “Goodness gracious great balls of fire” I am known to shout out on those days.
Now think of the damp summer ground that starts most mornings. Whether it is rain from the day before or dew and fog from that dawn, as the sun raises the dampness evaporates and the ground dries out. That evaporation is invisible to the naked eye but imparts a moisture source to the air. We call that moisture vapor.
That vapor then hitches a ride on the back of the air pollutants and produces the haze we see.
Now that haze has a hidden power to magnify the sun’s energy as Ol Sol shines into our lives. In effect, a double whammy occurs where by the sun’s rays are magnified by their passage through the summer haze. That enhances the sun’s power and naturally it’s burning capacity.
Add it up and you have the makings of a harsh sunburn on these June days.
For years dermatologists and meteorologists alike have been preaching of the potential health hazards from sunburns incurred during our youth. Trouble is you can’t get skin cancer from one sun burn. It is the cumulative effects of many sun burns that can lead to skin cancer down the road. That gives kids the false impression they don't need to throw the sun screen on today. The mentaility is "I will do it tomorrow".
When I grew up, we didn't’ know about skin cancers from sunburns. We do now so there is no excuse to not lather up with sun screen in summer. I personally was checked by a dermatologist 20 years ago and cleared of any skin cancer issues. Since then I have been wearing a sun screen religiously. I suggest you and your kids do the same.
So just as sure as “school’s out for summer”, “skin cancer’s is preventable forever”!
Enjoy a safe summer!