The Fine Arts of Sun Bathing

By  Dr. Stanley B. Whitehead

            So long ago as 400 B. C. Hippocrates, the father of medicine, advised sun baths, and built a solarium for his patients. He knew that the rays of the sun brought health and life, although he may not have known how or why. Our knowledge of the health-giving value of sunshine, therefore, is a re-discovery, although the reasons advanced for its more general adoption today are based upon the scientific findings of recent times.

The widespread sickness and the influenza epidemics of the winter have taught us the folly of embarking upon a long winter in a sun-starved condition. Sunshine is a food which we store up in the tissues to give us the necessary resistance to infection in the cold-weather days, and the time has now arrived when the sun bathing balcony or roof is as much essential to family health as the modern hygienic bathroom.

Sun Bathing is not Self-Medication

While self-medication is a patient’s most heinous crime, there are few doctors who would not encourage us to sun bathe in the interests or our health. Sunshine is as natural and as vital to our well-being as fresh air, pure water and proper food, and our longing for it when summer comes is as fundamental as our hunger.

Today we know just which rays of the sun give heat and which give light; and that while both are needed for life, there are also other rays which growing humans must have for health. Sunshine is one of the indispensable natural factors irreplaceable in its entirety by the resources of science, and sun bathing is the way of keeping well and fit that is free to everyone.

Sun baths can be taken by everyone wherever the sun shines, in any climate and at any altitude. All the year round the life-giving force is available, and all we need is a better understanding of the qualities of sunshine and how beneficial sun baths may be.

Briefly, sunshine consists of a number of rays, were of which are visible and some invisible. The visible rays are soon revealed through a prism or by a rainbow, and a range from red, through orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, to violet, forming what we know as the spectrum. At the red end of the spectrum are the heat rays of the sun; at the violet end are the light rays. But at both ends there are also invisible rays, the infra-red rays, giving intense heat, and the ultra-violet rays, giving life and health.

Every ray may be said to be important to health, but the ultra-violet rays are the most indispensable, as they give the greatest benefit. They are also the most sensitive, and it is this quality that makes sun bathing imperative. The heat rays of the sun will pass through our clothing, and the light rays will pass through the ordinary glass in our homes, but the ultra-violet rays are filtered out and lost by these mediums.

For this reason we only get the true benefits of sunshine when our bare skin is exposed to the sunlight, either directly or behind vita (ultra-violet-ray-admitting) glass. When this is done these rays penetrate to every part of the body, and a wonderful process of healing takes place. The ultra-violet rays give us the substance which builds strong bones and fine healthy tissues. They increase the healthful reaction of metabolism, act upon the ergosterol present in the fat of the cells of the skin to create the anti-rachitic vitamin D, and sterilize the blood against disease.

Before the gentle probing fingers of the sun’s rays tuberculosis, rheumatism, physical deformities in children and certain aspects of malnutrition flee. There are few conditions of disease which do not prosper when we submit our bare bodies to the anti-septic healing rays of the sun. Sunshine furnishes the properties for young and old, sick and well, that promote good nutrition and the healthy rebuilding of cell and tissue.

Small Capillaries Dilated

The first effects of sun bathing are felt through the blood. The small blood vessels immediately below the surface of the skin become dilated under the stimulus of sunshine, and the blood thus drawn to the surface becomes irradiated and sterilized and in its subsequent re-circulation carries “sun-food” to every part of the body.

The very fine fibers of the nerves just beneath the surface of the skin pick up a gentle vibration from the sun’s rays, giving soothing sensations of warmth, and a quickening of nervous energy that quiets aches and pains in the tissues. Through the combined action of the quickened blood stream and nervous system the endocrine glands are also stimulated, and a greater release of their regenerative hormones is obtained for the benefit of youthful physical and mental rejuvenation.

Rejuvenation Follows Sun Exposure

Sun bathing when properly carried out never fails to give the sensation of renewed youth and vigor, and is therefore worthy of attention by everyone. Nevertheless, it is true that sun bathing has its harmful side. This does not show itself unless we over-expose our skin for too long a period.

Sunshine so quickens the physiological reaction of the body that over-indulgence in sun bathing at any one time is rather like the over-winding of a clock. The body can only assimilate sunshine at a slow rate. To over-expose ourselves to the sunlight tends to make the recuperative forces of the body over-reach themselves, and the too-rapid breakdown of diseased or pathological conditions can indeed be painful.

It is difficult to lay down absolute laws regarding the length of time we may sun bathe, for we all react differently, and some can expose themselves longer than others. The best guide, therefore, is our individual reactions. As soon as we feel the pleasant glow and flush of stimulation that comes from bathing in the sun, it is time to resume our clothing until next time.

Sun-starved bodies emerging from winter need a gradual acclimatization to the sunshine, and small but frequent doses should be our prescription. The greatest danger of over-exposure arise from the effects of the infra-red rays on the skin. These rays are very necessary for warmth, but when combined with the ultra-violet rays as in normal sunshine, they form the pigment in the skin which we know as tan.

Contrary to popular opinion, a deep brown tan is not necessarily the sign of good health, for it can conveniently be dispensed with altogether. Tan is Nature’s safeguard against too much sunshine, and while a good tan allows one to sun bathe for longer periods, it also hinders the penetration of the sun’s rays to the internal parts of the body, making long exposure necessary. It is the Negro’s tan that gives him his immunity from tropical sunshine and enables him to work in the sun all day long without detriment. A golden may be helpful in guarding against over-exposure, but it is by no means essential.

Some skins will never tan satisfactorily, others tan readily. It is a matter of individual physiological reaction and the state of our general health. Recent experiments have proved that the reaction of the skin to sunlight is dependent on the internal metabolism. In normal health the skin responds evenly and naturally. In diminished health the skin scorches more readily.

Sick people should always sun bathe carefully, especially at the outset, when exposures should be short and sweet. A tan can never be acquired rapidly in one does, but only by graduated and repeated exposures. Therefore, we should not try to make up for sunless days by over-exposing on holidays or at week-ends.

If we persist beyond the first stimulatory reaction the skin becomes burnt and may blister, and the whole body becomes tired, listless and depressed. The white man’s skin is not constructed for all-day exposure to the sunlight, and parents should bear this in mind, although the children do delight the run about naked all day long.

The technique for sun bathing is not difficult to grasp. It is age-old, and the animals follow it instinctively. They seek the sun in the morning hours before the meridian is reached. There are two excellent reasons for this. First, the sunshine, when the sun is rising, is always more stimulatory and healthful, and, secondly, the infra-red rays are not so strong as later in the day.

In the heat of the day the animal seek the shade, and we should do likewise. Whenever possible, we should utilize the hours before noon for sun bathing. Even so, the afternoon sunshine is better than no sunshine at all, but our length of exposure will necessarily have to be curtailed.

Start Slowly to Obtain Best Effect

Briefly, our first sun bath should not take longer than fifteen minutes. We should yield up our body to the sun slowly, but see to it that every part is duly exposed. First expose the limbs, then the thighs, the chest, and finally the whole body. The most delicate and sensitive part of the body are the spine, the eyes, the crown of the head and groin.

A soft hat will protect the head and the nape of the neck, while the groin can be protected by wearing a light cellular slip when sun bathing. In exposing the body the back should be exposed only half as long as the front, and the shining of direct sunlight into the eyes should be avoided.

As the body becomes acclimatized to the sunlight it is possible to lengthen the time of exposure, although this should rarely exceed forty minutes at one time. As soon as the skin flushes and the sense of exhilaration floods through we should resume some light clothing like a bath robe, which, unobstructive to movement, will protect the skin from further exposure.

Sunlight varies in intensity according to locality. At the seaside it is always more intense, and we need to guard more carefully against over-exposure. The same is true when the atmosphere is clear and the sun shining direct. On hazy, cloudy days the rays of the sunshine are still present, and there is no need to forego the daily sun bath in consequence. We can take longer time about it.

Before sun bathing and after, it is advantageous to apply almond of olive oil gently. The oil will not give immunity to sunburn, but it will keep the skin soft and supple, and aid the elimination of porous wastes. No more need be used than what the skin will take up.

After exposure it is always beneficial to smooth the body down with the barehands and free the skin of loosened cuticle and porous poisons. If we then do a loose robe, and walk or exercise so that the material gives a mild friction rub to the skin our sun bathing will always be delightful and healthful in every way. –New Health.



Defective Teeth, Dental Needs of London Workers Discussed

A piece of research on the provision for the dental needs of the working classes in the London County Council area has been done by students of the Social Science Department of Bedford College for Women, under the direction of Dr. H. A. Mess.

It was found that the working-class population is, in the majority of boroughs, provided with a public dental service for expectant and nursing mothers and children the service is seldom used after the age of one or one and a half. This results in a serious gap from to five, which is followed by the provisions of the school medical service. The provisions of the school medical service. The provisions for the elementary school children include periodic inspection and certain facilities for treatment; but in secondary schools the provisions are for less clearly defined and probably very inadequate. After this public dental services, excluding the National Health Insurance Scheme, extend solely to the distitute, tuberculous, blind, and mentally defective. The large gap, on leaving school, is not filled until the age of 19 and then only very partially, the N.H.I. scheme giving dental benefit only to a limited proportion of its members, who again are only a limited proportion of the adult community.

The rest of the working-class community can obtain treatment only from hospitals, from certain clinics or from private practitioners. They can obtain financial assistance by belonging to certain voluntary insurance societies, or by appealing to one or other of the various charitable societies, either directly or through the Charity Organization Society, Comparatively few persons are employed by firms which provide dental supervision and treatment for employees.

Commenting on the ascertained facts, the report says that “though dental inspection with treatment is universal need, large sections of the working class population have no effective help in obtaining it.” The report adds: –

“The extent to which the present system, from childhood onwards, fails in its main purpose, is clearly evidenced in a number of statistical reports. The findings recorded in the dental inspection of school entrants show the damage that has been done at this early age. The following figures are given for 1935, showing the result of the routine medical inspection of children upon entering elementary schools: -Four or more decayed, 9.9 per cent; less than four decayed, 34.3 per cent. Very striking also are the figures showing the rejections, on account of defective teeth, among those who seek enlistment in the fighting services: -18.4 per cent in the Army, 8 per cent in the Navy, and 14 per cent in the Air Force.

“It is clear that a more extensive, and, in particular, a better coordinated system is necessary before we can hope to fill in the present gaps, and, by regular inspection and early treatment, ensure to the majority of the working-class population healthy and efficient teeth that will serve them until, at a reasonable age, they are replaced by effective dentures.”

“The Times” (London), June 4, 1937.


Rush of Life Causes Illness

            Mr. A. S. Comgus-Carr, K. C. (President of the Association of Approved Societies), speaking in London on July 2nd, 1937, said that an obvious cause of the failure to reduce sickness was the increased rush, noise and strain of life, particularly industrial life. A condition in modern life was anxiety as to whether one would have any work to do and when one go it one lives in a perpetual rush in doing it. There was no doubt that a great deal of physical ill health was due to nervous ill health and nervous strain. If holidays with pay for the whole industrial population could be brought about, it would have a very favorable effect on health.

-The Time (London), July 3, 1937.