The sun’s rays can be harmful to the wound healing process.

Vitamin D is vital for wound healing and a number of other bodily functions, making sunlight a great source for overall improved health. However, overexposure to the sun’s rays can be very harmful to the body, with the potential to lead to the skin cancer melanoma not to mention ocular deterioration, sun damage and other complications. It can even have a negative effect on the wound healing process. Learn more about how exposure to the sun can affect the body’s ability to recover.

Sun exposure and the immune system

A lesser-known fact about UV radiation is that it can weaken the body’s ability to protect against potentially harmful bacteria. According to the American Cancer Society, UV rays can weaken the immune system, making it harder for the body to fend off wound infections. The immunosuppressive effects are caused by an uptick in cytokines and enhanced activity of T regulatory cells. These cells are involved in the removal of self-reactive T-cells that protects against foreign invaders. Infections can halt or slow the healing process, and if it spreads, surgery or amputation may be required.

How sun affects scarring

As the Virginia Mason Medical Center explains, scars are highly sensitive to sunlight. As such, this sensitive tissue can sunburn much more quickly than healthy skin. People in the process of recovery should be careful to avoid sun exposure at the affected area for the first year after the wound is inflicted. Otherwise, you could experience darkening and thickening of the scar tissue, and this damage can be permanent – the discolored skin may never fade back to match the hue of the healthy tissue.

Protecting yourself from the sun

While the stratospheric ozone protects us from most of the harmful ultraviolet B radiation coming from the sun, some still seeps through this defensive layer. But there are many ways to guard your wound from UV rays during recovery. The Virginia Mason Medical Center recommends using sun block at SPF 30 or higher on the site of healing and newly forming scars. Additionally, covering up with clothing is also helpful. Basic wound dressings such as gauze can also be effective at covering the affected area and protecting it from UVA and UVB rays.