Located just one degree north of the equator, Singapore is in a high-risk area for sun-related illnesses. With its tropical climate and year-round hot weather, visitors and residents alike ought to take proper precautions to avoid health problems related to excess exposure to the sun. Below are a few important pointers, with some specific advice for Singaporeans.
The colonial saying about “only mad dogs and Englishmen going outside in the midday sun,” may be old-fashioned (and perhaps vaguely offensive), but it does have some merit. The best way to avoid heat-related illness such as heat stroke is simply to remain indoors when the sun’s rays are at their most powerful (11am to 3pm). Long days lounging by the pool and or on a boat are popular in Singapore, but take care if you’re also drinking alcohol – the effects of drinking can be intensified in hot, humid climates. It might be tough, but try to alternate soft drinks/water with alcohol at a ratio of 2 to 1.
According to the Singapore Cancer Registry, rates of skin cancer have quadrupled in the country since 1968. Elderly ethnic Chinese were singled out as being an especially high growth category of skin cancer patients. Skin cancer is the 8th most common form of cancer in the country.
One of the most dangerous myths in skin care is that those with darker skin are unlikely to get skin cancer. According to the WHO, skin cancer rates are indeed lower in those with darker pigmentation, but they are by no means immune to the harmful effects of the sun’s ultraviolet rays.
Wearing long-sleeved clothing is very good protection from UV rays – opt for lighter fabrics if you’re worried about getting clammy. Additionally, wide-brimmed hats are in fashion, and provide great protection (while hiding humidity hair!). While sunscreen may be useful in protecting from UV rays, it can also provide wearers with a false sense of security in the sun – sunscreen should only be a last line of defense.
While skin cancer is the most treatable form of cancer, especially if detected early, it can be deadly. The rate of growth in Singapore is quite alarming – do check your skin for strange looking moles and other growths, and avoid sunburn at all costs.
Advice for Kids
Children have more sensitive skin than adults and tend to spend more time playing outdoors. Hence, they are at particularly high risk of skin diseases, which may not actually show symptoms until years later. If your little ones are playing outside, a few precautions should be taken:
– Outdoor play should be limited to early morning or evening hours.
– Drinking plenty of water should be encouraged.
– Wearing hats and sunglasses to protect the skin is strongly recommended.
As with most things, sunlight should be taken in moderation. Limit your exposure to it and you can enjoy its health benefits, as well as limit the health problems it may lead to.