Stay safe in the sun: People warned to take precautions
Health officials say it’s not boating accidents or mountain bike falls that fill the emergency rooms this time of year – dehydration and sunburn are the two primary reasons triage centers stay full in the Tahoe Basin.
“We always get it this time of year,” said Pam Stock, director of patient care service at Incline Village Community Hospital. “People don’t realize (when) there are clouds out they’ll get burned. Sunscreen is effective, but you can sweat it off or swim it off. We always say, ‘re-apply, re-apply, re-apply.'”
Doctors agree this is the time of year when the worst and most dangerous burn cases come about.
“It’s the most fun time but it’s absolutely the worse time of year for sun exposure,” said Sparks dermatologist James Torok who has worked in northern Nevada for the last 22 years. “Close to summer solstice the sun is at the highest point in the northern hemisphere. It is pretty much straight overhead which makes it more intense.”
Intense may be a bit of an understatement. According to health officials, the intensity of the sun creeps up exponentially in the high Sierra.
“Every 100 feet there is a 3 percent increase in intensity (of UV rays),” Torok said. “It’s pretty significant.”
Exacerbating the sun’s effect in higher elevation is the number of clear, sunny days in the basin and the reflection off Tahoe’s waters (at as much as 80 percent of the sun’s intensity).
While many come prepared for the sun in high altitudes, it is an all-too-common observation from visitors that they didn’t come prepared enough.
“It breaks my heart when I see kids with sunburn,” said Concord resident Danielle Sandor, who frequented the beaches with her two children over the holiday weekend.
Sandor, who slabbed sunscreen on her 15-month-old daughter, Ellora, lamented the consequences of direct sun on young skin.
“You have to be really careful because every exposure increases the risk of skin cancer,” she said.
Sandor sat beneath an umbrella and watched her son, William, 3, play in the water as the mid-day sun reflected off the lake.
William was wearing a “sun-suit” a bathing suit that protected him from the sun, sun glasses, a large brimmed hat and sunscreen that Sandor re-applies repeatedly.
Protection from sun at a young age can not only prevent skin cancer cells from forming but lead to a lifetime of making sun protection a priority, health officials said.
“(Sun damage) begins the first day you go out in the sun,” dermatologist Torok said. “But it continues throughout your life.”
Torok said most sun-induced skin cancer shows up in patients over the age of 65 but is increasingly more prevalent in patients of all ages; his biggest warning is for sun-lovers to stay indoors during the traditional “prime time” to tan (from noon to 3 p.m.)
“The early morning and late afternoon sun is not nearly as bad,” he said.
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When the Judicial & Law Enforcement Center was built 40 years ago, there were only 19,400 people living in Douglas County.