It’s July and that means lots of outdoor fun… and way too much hot Texas sun! Fortunately, we have lots of ways to beat the heat here in and around McCulloch County.
- Shady public parks with protective oaks
- Brady’s Aquatic Complex at Richard’s Park
- Our beautiful Brady Lake
- Friends with inviting private pools
Our historic Willie Washington Park is sporting new play equipment, thanks to a generous grant from Texas Parks and Wildlife.
The best times to visit any of our parks in the hot, hot summer is in the morning and early evening. In between, take cover in the shade of those beautiful big oaks! Or head for home and the AC and have a nice long siesta.
Why is it so important to avoid the direct sun?
Exposure to our warm, welcoming Mr. Sunshine is the greatest cause of skin cancer, although exposure to environmental hazards, radiation treatment and what’s simply in your DNA can play a role.
Ask anyone over 60 years of age who spent most of their youth out in the sunshine, and they’ll tell you that sunscreen wasn’t a big deal when they were a kid. It was all about getting a tan. “Alas, if we had only known…” That’s why dermatologists see so much skin cancer and pre-cancers on them now. The rich varieties of sunscreens at high SPF numbers we see today simply weren’t available.
The risk of getting skin cancer is greatest for people who have:
- Fair skin or light-colored eyes
- An abundance of large and irregularly-shaped moles
- A family history of skin cancer
- A history of excessive sun exposure or blistering sunburns
- Lived at high altitudes or places with year-round sunshine
- Received radiation treatments
Sun Safety Check-List
- Limit your exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet rays, especially between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., when those rays are strongest.
- While outdoors, liberally apply a broad spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher (don’t forget the lips and ears!)
- Wear a hat and sunglasses, and cover up with light clothing.
- And remember, if you notice changes to your skin such as a new growth, a mole changing appearance, or a sore that won’t heal, see a doctor right way.
As you age, it becomes progressively important to check yourself and loved ones routinely for changes in the skin. Start visiting a qualified dermatologist as soon as noticeable changes occur because most cancers can be cured if they are detected and removed early.
The most common of these are pre-cancerous lesions called Actinic Keratosis, or solar keratosis, or “AKs” for short. They are not yet cancer, but could become serious over time and are easily removed by a dermatologist, or your primary care physician. Senior adults often develop AKs, which are small, scaly patches that usually occur on the head, neck, or hands, but can be found elsewhere. They’re often an early warning sign of skin cancer. Don’t worry, most AKs do not become cancerous, but doctors recommend early treatment to prevent the development of squamous cell skin cancer. Removal is normally covered by Medicare and most other insurance plans.
The most dangerous skin cancers include melanoma, basal cell carcinoma, and squamous cell carcinoma. Pictures and descriptions of these various cancers can be found on two notable websites. Check them out so you know what to look for:
Mayo Clinic: http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/skin-cancer/basics/definition/con-20031606
Slide show on WebMD’s site: http://www.webmd.com/melanoma-skin-cancer/ss/slideshow-skin-lesions-and-cancer
On the look out for moles
Moles are the other thing to keep a close eye on. Unlike AKs, most moles develop in youth or young adulthood. It’s unusual to acquire a mole in the adult years, so if you see a new one, it should probably be looked at.
A mole (nevus) is a benign growth of melanocytes, which are cells that gives skin its color. Although very few moles become cancer, abnormal or atypical moles can develop into melanoma over time. “Normal” moles can appear flat or raised or may begin flat and become raised over time. The surface is typically smooth. Moles that may have changed into skin cancer are often irregularly shaped, contain many colors, and are larger than the size of a pencil eraser.
When in doubt, it’s always good to have your doctor look at it.
Good old heat rash is one thing you don’t have to worry about. It’s quite normal and unless it gets severe, you don’t even have to go see the doctor. Here in Texas, we all know what heat rash is, otherwise known as prickly rash. It’s when our moist heat blocks your pores.
Here are some summertime tips to help your heat rash heal and make you more comfortable:
- Dress in loose, lightweight clothing that helps keep moisture away from your skin
- Spend as much time as possible in air-conditioned buildings
- Bathe or shower in cool water with nondrying soap, then let your skin air-dry instead of toweling off
- Use calamine lotion or cool compresses to calm itchy, irritated skin
- Avoid using creams and ointments that contain petroleum or mineral oil, which can block pores further
Enjoy the summer!
Most of all… have fun out there! What’s the point of worrying about sun safety, if you’re not enjoying yourself. So remember to safely soak up what you can during these summer months and use good sense when it comes to having fun in the sun and heat.
And next time you’re headed to the pool, stop by City Drug for some waterproof sunscreen. Or just a break from the heat.