Could sunshine help you survive Covid? UVA rays can release skin chemical that stops deadly virus from spreading, scientists say

  • Experts found sunnier places had around a third fewer deaths from coronavirus 
  • They say exposure to UVA causes skin to release chemical that stops the spread 
  • Researchers from Edinburgh University compared Covid deaths to UV levels 

With restrictions set to ease, hopes for a good summer were already sky high.

And scientists have now said there could fewer Covid deaths due to the change in season.

Experts found sunnier places had around a third fewer deaths from the virus. 

They believe exposure to the sun’s rays – specifically UVA – caused the skin to release a chemical which stops the virus from spreading.

Researchers from Edinburgh University compared recorded Covid deaths to UV levels across 2,474 counties in the US between January and April last year.

They found that people living in areas with the highest level of exposure to UVA rays – which makes up 95 per cent of the sun’s UV light – had a lower risk of dying. 

The chances of dying from Covid fell by 32 per cent for counties with the highest average daily UVA. 

Experts believe exposure to the sun’s rays – specifically UVA – caused the skin to release a chemical which stops Covid-19 from spreading. Pictured: Stock image

This was repeated in England and Italy with the same results, according to the findings published in the British Journal of Dermatology.

The reduction could not be explained by higher levels of vitamin D, the experts said, as the areas analysed had insufficient levels of UVB to produce enough of the vitamin in the body.

One explanation is that sunlight causes the skin to release nitric oxide. This may reduce the ability of SARS-CoV-2, the cause of Covid-19, to replicate.

The researchers took into account factors known to be associated with increased exposure to the virus and risk of death such as age, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, population density, air pollution, temperature and levels of infection in local areas.

Dr Richard Weller, of the University of Edinburgh, said: ‘There is still so much we don’t understand about Covid-19, which has resulted in so many deaths worldwide.

Researchers from Edinburgh University compared recorded Covid deaths to UV levels across 2,474 counties in the US between January and April last year. Pictured: Stock image

‘These early results open up sunlight exposure as one way of potentially reducing the risk of death.’

Previous research has shown that increased sunlight exposure is also linked to improved cardiovascular health, with lower blood pressure and fewer heart attacks.

Given heart disease is a known risk factor in dying from Covid-19, this could also explain the latest findings, according to scientists.

Professor Chris Dibben, co-author of the study, said: ‘The relationship between Covid-19 mortality, season and latitude has been quite striking, here we offer an alternative explanation for this phenomenon.’

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