Friday, December 4, 2020

Beware the rays of the sun

In this beautiful semi arid country of ours which is predominantly composed of the Kalahari Desert, it seems like the sun rises in September at the beginning of summer and only sets in April when the winter kicks in. Temperatures go as high as the mid to late forties during the day and sometimes through the night, rendering many Batswana hot and bothered.

Due to the international climate change crisis occasioned by greenhouse gases effect, summers feel as if Botswana has taken a few leaps towards the sun, causing temperatures to soar and rainfall amounts to drop drastically. Direct exposure of the human skin to the harsh rays of the sun could lead to great discomfort and serious health implications.

While the sun is the source of one of the most essential nutrients (Vitamin D), like everything else too much of is not good.  Contrary to the belief that dark skinned people will not be as adversely affected by direct sunlight as the lighter skinned ones, the reality is that prolonged exposure to sunlight is bad for all skin types. So people need to cover up.

More dangerous about the sunlight are the Ultra Violet (UV) rays. While they constitute a small percentage of all the sun rays, they are by far the deadliest. There are three types of UV rays namely the UVA which cause rapid ageing, the UVB rays which cause cancer and are responsible for sunburns, and the UVC rays which have the most energy but luckily do not penetrate the ozone layer into the atmosphere.

It is important to note that UV rays are most potent between 10am in the morning and 4pm in the afternoon and are strongest during summer.  Even during a cloudy day UV rays can penetrate through the clouds. In fact some clouds reflect the rays, leading to an increase in exposure unknowingly. People should also be wary of surfaces such as water, sand, pavement and even grass which also reflect UV rays and increase exposure. The short term effects of excessive exposure to UV radiation can range from the development of freckles and blemishes to sunburn. However over time the skin may wrinkle, ageing will escalate and cancer may ultimately take root. The skin has a little defence mechanism against UV rays as it is able to form moles and effect thickening of the outer epidermis (the top layer of the skin).  It is still crucial however that during these hot days one keeps their skin as much as possible from direct sunlight and when they do walk in the sun they should be covered in light cotton clothing, wearing a hat and it is imperative to keep a s hydrated as possible. The heat is real and is potential lethal and it doesn’t look like it is about to get any cooler.

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Read this week's paper

The Telegraph December 2

Digital edition of The Telegraph, December 2, 2020.