Visiting the beaches of this country, or passing by swimming pools, or looking at the annual revenue of the tanning salon industry is enough to convince anyone that America (and indeed the global society) is addicted to "sunshine". Like a drug. And it isn't just a tan people crave. Some lead almost photosynthetic lives, and cannot start their day without a good sit on the front porch to soak up that morning sunshine.
If the drug is the sun, its active ingredient is ultraviolet radiation and its side effects on the human body are many. Even the least educated of sun-worshippers knows that too much sun over a short period of time leads to sunburn, and sunburn over an extended period of time has a good shot at leading to skin cancer. Many seem to be willing to risk this potentially deadly consequence for that decidedly not so "healthy tan."
But do they know that lesser known consequences of excessive ultraviolet radiation include premature wrinkles, cataracts, immune suppression, certain symptoms of lupus, and perhaps the ugliest and least-mentioned side effect of all: the infamous "fever blister"?
First of all, it is time to acknowledge the fact that a "fever blister," a "cold sore" and "lip herpes" are all one and the same infection, falling under the category of Herpes Labialis, or HSV-1, and that one of its primary triggers is ultraviolet radiation a.k.a. sunshine.
It is interesting to note that health care officials predict 1.3 million Americans will be diagnosed with skin cancer this year, and they are calling this an "epidemic." Now consider that according to herpesdiagnosis.com, 130 million Americans are infected with HSV-1. The infection is "one of the most common infections in the world," they report.
Most people contract HSV-1 by twelve years of age. After the primary infection is gone, latency is established—latency meaning that the virus sits dormant but waiting for a trigger to set it off. These triggers can include microderm abrasion (chapped lips), stress, surgical procedures, premenstrual strain, and of course ultraviolet radiation.
Protecting your lips from the sun makes sense, if only to potentially avoid a sore sight. Try LipCOTZ a chap stick offers 45 SPF and provide full spectrum protection. Even better is to cut off direct sunlight to your face with a wide brim hat. And, by wearing a good sun hat you get the added benefit of stemming the advent of premature wrinkles precisely where you least want them—your face.
Unlike skin cancer, avoiding the sun will scarcely prevent the spread of lip herpes. But with simple sun-smart precautions, how many fewer times a year would this unsightly infection pop up, one wonders.....