14:34 12 June 2007
In what seems like an about turn, scientists are telling us that some sun can be good for us.
And while it's important to limit our sun exposure to avoid skin cancer, researchers argue that we've taken our sun protection too far causing vitamin D deficiency.
Experts Cancer Research UK say that although vitamin D is found in some foods, most of it comes from sunlight and the nation is not getting enough of it. The "sunshine vitamin" is vital for calcium absorption and bone health, and could even help ward off Alzheimer's.
Common sense plays a part, so whether it's a quick walk at lunch time, a cycle when you get home or a romantic walk in park, we all need more a little midday sun for good health.
And while a few minutes in the sun without sun cream can boost our levels without redness, too much exposure can seriously damage our health in the long run.
Sunlight can tan and burn, but it's not only your skin that it affects. The sun's rays affect us from head to toe. Check out the pros and cons of a long hot summer.
Smells and infections thrive in the heat. Feet contain more sweat glands than any other part of your body so it's no wonder they suffer in summer.
Defeat the damage: Wash feet at least once a day and use anti-perspirants to reduce moisture. To prevent blisters apply plasters or a product called 'fleecy padding' to put between your foot and any part of your shoe that rubs.
Dr Miriam Nelson, author of Strong Women, Strong Bones (Rodale) says bones are three to four per cent thicker in summer as the extra vitamin D your body produces increases calcium absorption in the body.
Boost the benefit: Ensure that you've got enough calcium in your diet to absorb. Aim for three to four servings of dairy products every day.
Prickly heat can cause misery in the summer and the torso is the part of the body most often affected. It happens when the sweat glands on the body get blocked which causes inflammation and an itchy rash.
Defeat the damage: If you get prickly heat, it's important to reduce sweating by cooling the skin. Use cool baths and cotton clothing. Anti-histamine medications or mild steroid creams like hydrocortisone can help relieve the itch.
This is the most common place to burn because unlike legs, arms and faces we only normally expose them when things get really hot so they have no defences.
Defeat the damage: Use sunscreens like Boots Soltan Clear Sun Spray (from ?8.99) - easy to apply and, because they're clear, they don't need rubbing in. This is an advantage because, as RAFT Institute of Plastic Surgery found, rubbing in can lower the protective benefit of sun creams. If you do burn, cool the skin with an aloe vera gel.
Bad news if you want to start a family - for every 10 degrees over average the thermometer rises, births fall the next spring by six per cent. This may be because heat interferes with sperm production - men produce 30 per cent less in summer - but also because light nights interfere with ovulation.
Soft and sweet
Essential summer face creams.
Summer is the season for upset tummies. In winter about 1,200 people a week get food poisoning, by June its 2,000! This could be down to lots of barbecues with food not being cooked thoroughly.
Defeat the damage: Keep food cool before you eat it and ensure barbecued food is cooked through. If food poisoning does hit, let it work its way out of your system. Drink lots of water and use rehydration sachets such as Dioralyte.
Sunlight helps the creation of vitamin D in your body which sounds good but it's actually pretty useless until it's turned into an active form. But luckily we have vitamin D-producing sites around the body, including the breasts.
One of the most important jobs of vitamin D is cancer protection. It stops cancer cells from reproducing and causes them to die young; meaning every day your breasts could be protecting themselves - and other areas of your body - from attack.
Boost the benefit: The more vitamin D you have in your body the more of the active form you can create. Which is why as well as getting some sun exposure each day, you should also load up on vitamin D-heavy foods such as oily fish, eggs and dairy.
The summer makes your heart beat with joy. Not only does the added warmth cause blood vessels to widen therefore lowering blood pressure, but UVB rays in sunlight convert a substance in your skin - 7-dehydrocholesterol - into vitamin D.
Boost the benefit: Get a safe dose of sun - enough to boost your vitamin D production but not so much that you risk sun damage.
Sunlight makes us happy because as the rays hit the back of your eye, they trigger nerves in the brain to release the mood-boosting hormone serotonin. During the summer we produce around seven times more serotonin than we do in winter.
Boost the benefit: Sit near windows and open curtains as far as you can. Research shows serotonin is released into the brain via nerve pulses so the brighter the environment, the more often the nerves fire - and the happier you'll feel.
Blood vessels expand in the sun which means more nutrients reach the nail plate. Because of this, it's easier to grow luscious, strong nails in the summer
Boost the benefit: Keep nails moisturised. This prevents them drying out and snapping before you can make the most of their growth spurt. A good product for doing this is almond oil. You can also boost blood flow by gently buffing nails - or doing activities like typing.
Hair grows faster in summer, but it gets damaged more easily, too. Normally it grows about 1.5cm a month, but UV light speeds up cell reproduction and dividing cells makes hair grow. But too much sun will damage the hair cortex making it porous and dry.
How to have the perfect pout.
The good news is you're 20 per cent less likely to get gum disease as vitamin D - produced when sun hits your skin - fights the inflammation that causes it. The bad news is sunlight can cause cold sores.
Defeat the damage: Keep your lips well moisturised and wear sun block on your lips.
Just as sun can burn skin, it can also burn eyes. If you have painful watery red eyes and sensitivity to light about 12 hours after sunbathing, that's what's happened. To tackle the pain an optometrist can prescribe painkilling eye drops and you should avoid bright light until things clear up.
Defeat the damage: Wear sunglasses - but only those marked with British Safety Standard BS2724 which proves they filter both UVA and UVB rays.
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