Wooo hooo! Spring is fully here, and summer is around the corner. We have had a lot of days in the 70’s recently (very warm), and the forecast is calling for weather into the 80’s in the next few weeks.
This is great because I am hoping to see if sunlight helps Cholinergic Urticaria. I know that it should at least help with sweating if we can get to that point without too much torture.
I am also glad because at some point my wife & I (and some family) plan on going to DollyWood this summer. DollyWood is an awesome theme park here in Tennessee founded by country legend Dolly Parton. It has awesome roller coasters (which I am too chicken to ride, hehe), awesome water rides, and more. Daredevil falls is my favorite..although I like the River Rampage ride as well…
I know that others that read this site & forum plan on increasing some sunlight exposure this summer as well. But before we are so quick to do so, I wanted to write a post to talk about some very serious life & death issues that we may very well face, and to warn everyone so they remain safe & protected. So let’s briefly discuss some crucial things all of us Cholinergic Urticaria people need to keep in mind. These main points I want to discuss are:
- Skin Cancer
- Heat Exhaustion/Heat Stroke
Watching Out for Potentially Deadly Skin Cancer
Skin cancer is nothing to joke about. It happens all the time, and one skin cancer in particular (Melanoma) is one of the fastest spreading & most deadly cancers of all. But like most cancers, skin cancer can not only be prevented by taking the proper precautions, but it can be cured if caught early enough.
Preventing Skin Cancer:
Before you head out with your shirt off (guys), or in a bikini to soak up the sun’s rays all day, you may want to re-think this strategy. Direct sunlight to areas that don’t normally get sunlight can shock the body, cause a burn, and lead to later skin cancers.
There are several ways we can still get some sun exposure, but at the same time protect ourselves & make sure to minimize skin cancer risks. Here are some tips to prevent skin cancer:
- Try for regular amounts of “light” sun exposure as opposed to random amounts of “heavy” sun exposure. This is really important, and many studies indicate that random high exposure to sunlight increases skin cancer dramatically, whereas regular “light” exposure daily tends to reduce the more deadly skin cancer types.
- Check the UV forecast. The weather channel, local weather, etc. often posts the UV index for the day. If the index is high, try to avoid going out when it is hottest. If the index is low, it may be a better day to get a few rays.
- Avoid the sun’s harshest hours 10:00 am to 2:00 pm. Research shows that these hours are most dangerous & the sun’s rays are most intense. Instead, try to shoot for getting some rays in the late afternoon. This will reduce your risk for a burn & skin cancer.
- Only get about 10-60 minutes of direct sun exposure at a time. This varies greatly depending on your skin tone. If you are very fair (light) skinned, you probably only need about 10-15 minutes per day to get vitamin D & enough exposure. If you have very dark skin, you may need as much as 30-60 minutes. Just be cautious.
- Start out slow. If you have been hiding out in a cave like me most of the winter, don’t rush out & sit in the sun for 2 hours. You will likely get burnt, or worse. Instead, build up a regular pattern. Try to start with just about 10 minutes of sun, then go indoors, or cover yourself up & seek shade. Then you may be able to slowly increase this time once your body adapts & darkens your pigment (a tan).
- Cover up after you get sun. After you get the adequate sun exposure, you don’t necessarily have to go indoors. You can stay outside, but I highly recommend adding sunscreen, putting on a large hat & protective clothing, or sitting in the shade. This will allow you to still get heat, but you won’t risk getting burned or skin cancer.
Checking Your Moles & Going to the Dermatologist
You need to check your moles for skin cancer at all times. If you see a suspicious mole, then getting it checked out asap by a dermatologist. In fact, since many of us go to the dermatologist anyways, it would be a good idea to get a mole checkup every so often.
Generally, you need to use the ABCD’s of moles to check for skin cancer. These are below:
A: Asymmetry: Most moles are symmetrical and round. Be on the lookout for those that change shape and become asymmetrical. This means if you mentally cut the mole in half, does one side match the other side?
B: Border: Most moles have even borders. Watch for moles that are uneven and irregular around the edges.
C: Color: It is normal for moles to be a uniform brown color. Moles that are different shades of brown or black may be a skin cancer and should be evaluated.
D: Diameter: Most moles are small — about 6 mm or smaller in diameter. If a mole becomes larger than the tip of a pencil eraser, you should check with your dermatologist.
Here is a picture of a Melanoma, one of the most serious & deadly skin cancers that we can get:
See how this mole has all of the ABCD’s above. It has different colors, irregular border, fairly large, and unsymmetrical. These suckers are deadly, but if you remove them fast & catch them early, you can live a long happy life. Don’t catch them fast, and it is one of the fastest spreading cancers, and also highly resistant to chemo (it is not unusual to die within a mere months-3 years after a late stage diagnosis with one of these!).
Other skin cancers look a bit different, and tend to look like a rash, peeling skin, or a sore that won’t heal. These cancers need to be treated early too, but these are much less deadly than the melanoma I showed above.
Beware of Sunburns, Blisters, and More:
A sunburn is something else we must be very careful to avoid. A sunburn not only hurts, but it increases your risk of one day developing skin cancer dramatically.
Sunburns can cause a very painful stinging sensation, blisters can form, the skin eventually starts to peel, and more. Sun burns are not a lot of fun, and if we have a sunburn on top of our hives, then it really makes our own skin a nightmare.
By being careful to avoid days with high UV index, limiting the sun exposure, choosing hours of sun exposure where the sun’s rays are minimized, and wearing sunscreen & protective clothing–you can usually avoid a sunburn completely.
If you get a sunburn, that is your body’s way of telling you that you have gotten way to much sun exposure.
Heat Stroke, Heat Exhaustion, and Death…Oh My!
I will never forget one time when I was at a theme park with my sister, and I was looking at this guy walking. Suddenly, he fell flat on his face! I was in shock. The medical people came & put him on a stretcher, and everyone was trying to pour water on him. I do not know if he lived or not.
He most likely had a heat stroke, which is where the body becomes overheated. This is a very serious condition, it can happen to anyone. But guess what? We are at a MUCH HIGHER risk of a heat stroke for one simple reason: Most of Us Cannot Sweat Easily.
Sweating helps cool the body down, and since most of us don’t sweat at all, or have a hard time sweating, we can pass out & die. So I want everyone to remember this when going outside, going to a theme park, etc. We can be fine one minute, and we can fall on our face on the pavement the next.
What are Some Symptoms to Heat Stroke, Heat Exhaustion, etc?
There are various symptoms one may experience before having a heat stroke. Most of these symptoms are mild, and people may ignore them. So if you start to feel any of these at all, I highly recommend you take steps to cool down. Here are some symptoms one may feel if you are starting to come down with Heat Exhaustion:
- muscle cramps and aches
Looking at this list shows me that I may have started to get to hot on several occasions. I am lucky to be alive. While I know many of us try to “suffer through” the hives in high heat situations, we must be very careful.
If you are near a Heat Stroke, here are some symptoms you may feel:
- high body temperature
- the absence of sweating, with hot red or flushed dry skin
- rapid pulse
- difficulty breathing
- strange behavior
I have felt headaches after being hot & I never knew why, I would get dizzy & nauseated as well. Chances are, I could have been showing early symptoms of a heat exhaustion, which could have led to a heat stroke on those hot days.
How to Prevent A Heat Stroke: What to Do to Stay Cool
I know that many of us have the idea to sweat, sweat, sweat, and to force the sweat out. But at the same time, we can’t die of a heat stroke. So I say forget about forcing the sweat, and stay cool in hopes that the sweat will come as well.
How to stay cool & prevent a heat stroke/heat exhaustion:
- Get in the air conditioner at regular intervals, or find a shade tree.
- Splash yourself with cool water every so often to simulate “sweat” (you remember sweat, that wet thing we used to do when we got hot, right?).
- Drink lots of water & stay hydrated. Many people forget to drink enough cool water on hot days. It is like driving a car with no water in the radiator. Water helps us stay cool.
- Limit outdoor activity, and if you feel tired, dizzy, or anything else get indoors fast.
- Use the “buddy system.” This means on days when you are outside, try to be with a friend that understands you can’t sweat, and knows to get help if you pass out.
- Wear cool, lightweight, light-colored clothing. Dark colors bring out the hives fast on a sunny day, and heat up our bodies fast. Instead, opt for light yellows, whites, etc. Wear shorts or t-shirts, sandals, etc. Dress for the weather.
Okay, I will get down from my pulpit now & stop preaching. The bottom line is, I know many of you (me included) will be going out a lot this summer. Just be safe. Don’t risk skin cancer, sun burns, or pass out like that guy I explained above from the theme park.
And don’t forget to have fun in the process, just have safe fun! Saftey is more important than trying to “sweat it out.”