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Thursday, February 14, 2013

Living in Warm Places has its Risks

UVB rays from the sun may contribute to allergies and asthma

As if the sun’s UV rays were not mischievous enough in leading to early aging of the skin and several forms of cancer, recent studies show that UV rays may play a role in producing allergies and asthma in some people.

Greater risks of allergies by living closer to the equator

The study actually showed that the closer people live to the earth’s equator, the more at risk they may be to have allergies and asthma. The increased risk seems to be related to exposure to UVB rays in sunlight. UVB rays are shortwave and UVA are longwave forms of solar emissions. Both forms of ultraviolet waves appear to have adverse affects on the unprotected human body.

The risks of exposure to UV light of all types

Ultraviolet radiation is one aspect of electromagnetic light that pours over the earth from the sun. UV radiation is not visible to the human eye because its wavelengths are shorter than visible light, making it invisible to humans, though birds and other creatures may actually be able to detect certain forms of UV light.

There are several types of UV light. These include long wave (UVA) short wave (UVB), and UVC which is largely absorbed by the earth’s ozone layer and does not reach the surface.

Connecting the dots on harm from UV rays

UVA and UVB both penetrate the atmosphere and can damage human skin, eyes (cataracts especially) and produce skin cancers. That is why physicians and dermatologists consistently warn us to protect ourselves using sunscreens and clothing to shield our bodies from UV rays.  

The realization that UVB rays may also produce allergies and asthma may not be so surprising given the impact of UV rays on other parts of our bodies. It also makes sense that you are at greater risk the closer you live to the earth’s equator where sunlight lasts longest and is most intense.

Compromising the body’s immune systems leads to allergies, asthma

The increase in UVB toward the equator may modify the body’s ability to process Vitamin D, which helps regulate the immune system. Increased exposure to UVB rays therefore produces greater risk for allergies and asthma due to weakening of the immune system.  Other factors affecting allergies and asthma include cultural influences such as housing, climate and social variables also related to the earth’s latitudes.

So while there is not an identification of increased risk for allergies among people living closer to the equator, it is also seldom the only factor that may be producing a compromised immune system leading to conditions such as allergies and asthma. The two conditions are often closely related, with between 75 and 85 percent of people with asthma also experiencing an allergy of some sort.

Skip the tanning booth as well for better health

One might also consider the fact that UVA rays that cause tanning effects whether outdoors or at a salon may be having effects not only on the body’s skin, but also the immune system as well. Using a tanning salon is akin to moving closer to the equator, at least in terms of exposure to harmful UVA rays.

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