There’s a strong correlation between sun and flu prevention. Make sure you’re getting enough intentional and mindful time in the sun in the summer so that you can go into flu season healthy and strong. Although extensive exposure to harmful UV rays can damage your skin and potentially cause skin cancer, it’s important that we get adequate amounts of vitamin D in the summer to remain healthy. . . especially during flu season.
You’ve probably heard that the sun can drive off the winter blues, but did you know the sun can also ward off the flu?
Each year the CDC creates a flu index, which collects information on reported flu cases from each of the state’s health departments, and then applies it to a 10-point scale, with 10 being the highest flu risk. Researchers seeking new insights on sun and flu prevention combined data from this flu index with sunlight levels by county Nationwide.
The Sun, The Flu, and You
The findings were clear: the more sunlight residents saw in late Summer and early Fall, the lower the flu levels were in that area. In fact, just a 10-percent increase in relative sunlight was found to lower the flu risk on the 10-point flu index by 3 whole points.
David Slusky, assistant professor of economics and the paper's co-author said, "Relatively higher levels of sunlight given what you normally see in a state resulted in relatively lower levels of flu for that season in that state.” In other words, it’s true, there’s a connection between sun and flu prevention.
Well, what’s the cause of this phenomena? People who spend more time in the sun in August and September are getting their vitamin D, which is key in reducing the severity of flu season. Slusky says, "I was always taught as a child that sunlight had no benefit, that it was only bad. 'You can get a sunburn or skin cancer. Wear your hat and your sunscreen and stay inside all the time. . . Now we know that not only vitamin D has health benefits, but also that there is seasonal-affective disorder and related depression, due to lack of sunlight. It's a much more complicated and nuanced relationship. Trying to weigh the cost and benefits appropriately is a broader conversation worth having."
Population Density Matters
One thing to keep in mind is that it doesn’t matter how well you protect yourself against flu if you’re in densely populated areas. Contagion will run its course. "There is a middle range of states that are near the optimal amount of concentration such that sunlight is more protective against the flu than in states that are either very, very concentrated or states that are little concentrated," Slusky said.
The middle states that appeared to most benefit from extra sunlight in August and September were Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, Tennessee, Arizona, Colorado, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, Ohio, Texas, Utah and Wisconsin. States that are more densely populated, such as California, Florida, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania, saw less benefit from added sunlight in those two months, and low-density states such as Maine, Vermont, Montana and Wyoming also saw less benefit overall.
Download our mobile app Sun Keeper today to optimize your daily Vitamin D intake! Available on Google Play and iTunes.