Wear Sunscreen

From the Headmaster's Desk, June 19, 2017

For today’s thought for the week, I want to speak to you about the sun.

And we saw plenty of sun this weekend in Sonning and the surrounding area.  It was a high of 28 on Saturday and I watched some hot batsmen on Saturday afternoon, who eagerly took off their helmets and pads for brief respite between each over.  Then yesterday it was 29 degrees, which was a bit hot for Father’s Day.  It was so warm that most people watching the cricket here again on Sunday were actively seeking shade.  It was still 29 degrees at almost 7 o’clock yesterday evening.

It looks like warm weather is here to stay, with highs of 28 and 29 this week until it cools down towards the weekend.  London is going to be over 30 today, so at least we have some respite in this part of the countryside.

It’s not surprising that we’re seeing a lot of sun this week as these are the longest days of the year.  Wednesday 21st June is the Summer Solstice, the day at which the sun reaches the highest point in the sky and we get the most amount of daylight.  The sun will rise in Reading at 4:47am on Wednesday, and set at 9:25pm.  I often talk to you about making the most of your time, but on days this long and hot, it’s certainly important to take some breaks.

As we deal with this hot weather of what is technically midsummer, let me give you two rather obvious pieces of advice.

The first one is to drink water.  Your body is made up 60% water, and water is essential to every cell in your body, including your brain, heart, joints and muscles.

Hydration has endless benefits.  It keeps your memory sharp, your mood stable and your motivation intact.  Research even suggests you are better at problem solving when hydrated – hydration is good for maths!  Even mild dehydration of 1-2% can cause a decrease in your brain’s functioning, as well as fatigue and tiredness.  Dehydration also affects your productivity – another study suggests that being 1% dehydrated causes more than 12% drop in productivity.

Hydration has endless benefits. It keeps your memory sharp, your mood stable and your motivation intact.

Finally, one study has shown that students who bring water into an exam score higher than those who don’t.  Although perhaps that’s indicative of the fact that those who plan to bring water are the type of people who like to be well-prepared, and also did some revision?

Water also helps with your cardiovascular health.  Dehydration actually causes the volume of blood in your body to decrease, so your heart has to work harder to pump the reduced amount of blood around your cells.

And being hydrated is also essential to keeping cool.  Sweating is a natural physical reaction to cool your body, and obviously involves water loss.  So it is particularly important to stay hydrated when you’re being active, or it is hot.

Of course, water is also essential for your digestive health and the operation of your kidneys.  Perhaps ask your biology teachers more about what your kidneys do, and they might reveal some details of the dangers of dehydration that wouldn’t be appropriate for this forum.

My second piece of advice for this weather is just as important: wear sunscreen.

The sun, especially when it is high in the sky and thus closest to us, is harmful.  Whilst sunburn can cause premature aging, including wrinkles and leathery skin, as well as be a bit painful, these are not primary concerns

The main advantage of sun cream is that it prevents your skin from burning, which in turn reduces your risk of skin cancer.

Both of my parents have been treated for skin cancer due to overexposure to the sun.  This is not because they are careless or spent their youth sunbathing, but just that when they were your age we did not know about the dangers of skin cancer.

Long periods in the sun can still be dangerous, even with protection, but wearing sun cream offers an extra layer of protection against those invisible, ultra-violent rays.

The only caveat in my advice here is that there is no point using sun cream if it has expired.  Sun cream past its date no longer works and gives you no protection.

Talking about sun cream reminds me of the famous essay written in 1997 in the Chicago Tribune by Mary Schmich.  She wrote it this month 20 years ago as a hypothetical commencement speech.  The essay became instantly famous, and although it was not an actual graduation speech, it went viral.  Her first and last piece of advice is to wear sunscreen. (http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/columnists/chi-schmich-sunscreen-column-column.html)

The essay is commonly known as ‘wear sunscreen’ and it was turned into a song by Baz Lurhmann in 1999, ‘Everybody’s Free to Wear Sunscreen’.  It was a top ten hit in Europe after it was released, and it was a number 1 hit single in the UK.

We don’t have time to listen to this song this morning, but do have a listen this week.  There is plenty of other useful advice in the lyrics, and I know I also have given you plenty of advice in assemblies this year, that you may or may not heed, but please, in the words of Mary Schmich,  ‘trust me on the sunscreen’.

Stay hydrated, and have a good week.

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