Sun Safety Tips

Enjoy the Sun Wisely

A beautiful day just begs for people to go outside and enjoy it. Getting fresh air and exercising outdoors are enjoyable and healthy activities as long as you take a few precautions.

Use these tips to practice "sun safety" every time you are outside so your days in the sun aren't ruined by sunburn, heat stroke or even the risks of skin cancer.

Know the UV Index

The sun's strength is measured by the amount of ultra-violet (UV) rays reaching the earth's surface each day. The local weather report for your area should include a measure of the UV index, which will tell you how strong the sun will be where you live. Both UVA (long wave) and UVB (short wave) rays penetrate the skin and can cause damage such as premature aging, eye damage and skin cancer. Between 65% and 90% of the serious skin cancer called melanoma is caused by exposure to UV rays, so protecting your skin is of the utmost importance.

The UV index ranges from 0, which means the sun's strength is very low, to 10+, which means the sun's strength is very high. The higher the UV index, the more sun protection you should use when you go outside. If your skin is particularly fair, even a low UV index can cause damage is as little as 20 minutes. But even darker skinned people should take care to use sun protection every time they go outside.

Learn the Sun's Schedule

The sun's damaging UV rays are the strongest when the sun is the highest in the sky. This occurs between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m, with the peak time being high noon.

UV rays are also stronger during the summer months of May - August, at high altitudes and when you are close to the Equator. While you should use sun protection every time you go outdoors, take extra care if you plan to be outside during peak times or in an area where the UV index is typically high.

Keep Your Skin Covered

Make it your practice to keep your skin covered as much as possible when you are outside. Long pants and long-sleeved shirts are ideal, if it is not too hot. Stay in the shade under an umbrella or other cover when you can as well.

Even if you are at a pool or the beach, wear a long-sleeved, lightweight cover-up and hat whenever you are out of the water. Dark colors and fabrics with a close weave are better at blocking out UV rays than lighter ones.

Use Sunscreen Faithfully

Choose a sunscreen with a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of at least 15, and reapply it at least every 2-3 hours. Do not assume that a sunscreen with an SPF higher than 30 will keep you extra safe; most additional protection is marginal. Keep in mind that even the strongest sunscreen cannot completely protect you from sun damage. If you start to feel symptoms such as redness, pain, blistering, tingling or itching on your skin, dizziness, nausea or headache, you may be experiencing sun poisoning, which is a severe form of sunburn. Get out of the sun immediately, cool your skin with a wet cloth, and drink plenty of water.

When you do buy sunscreen, look for one that protects against both UVA and UVB rays. If you are going to participate in sports or go swimming, choose a waterproof sunscreen, but remember that you will still need to reapply it when you are finished with your activity.

Also remember, clouds do not block UV rays, so make sure you use sunscreen even if it is cloudy outside.

Wear Sunglasses

Sunglasses do more than make it easier to see on a sunny day. The proper pair can actually protect your lens and cornea from damage from the sun's rays. UV rays can increase your risk of developing cataracts, macular degeneration and problems such as Photokeratitis, or snow blindness.

Look for sunglasses that state they block 99% of UVA and UVB radiation. They should also state they meet ANSI Z80.3 blocking requirements and have UV 400 protection. The best glasses are large enough to protect the delicate skin of your eyelid and around the eye. If you are going to be in the snow, select goggles that conform to the shape of your face to prevent the sun's rays from reflecting off the snow and under your glasses.

Protect Baby's Skin

You need to take extra precautions when outside with a baby under the age of six months. Some sunscreens are not appropriate for babies this age, so use sunscreen only when necessary and ensure it's specific to infants. Keep them well covered up or in the shade at all times.

Even older children need extra sun protection because they might not recognize when they are getting burned. Just one incident of a blistering sunburn on a child can almost double their risk of developing melanoma later in life. In addition to applying sunscreen liberally, dress kids in long-sleeved "swim shirts" and hats when they are in the water. Apply the first layer of sunscreen before your child gets dressed, even on areas that may later be covered by a swimsuit.

While your child is in the sun, watch for signs of sunburn or heat stroke including redness, pain, blistering, lethargy or confusion. If any of these symptoms present themselves, get your child out of the sun right away and seek medical attention.

Watch Out For Reflective Surfaces

UV rays reflect off sand, snow, water and even concrete. While most people remember to put on sunscreen at the pool or beach, they may forget that it is just as easy to burn the exposed parts of your skin if you are skiing or even just sitting on your concrete patio. Any time you are going to be in an area where UV rays are likely to reflect, be sure to apply sunscreen before going out and throughout the day.

Protect Yourself from the Sun

You don't have to give up spending time in the sun altogether, but you do need to take steps to prevent sun damage to your skin. The good news is that sun damage is preventable!

By taking a few simple precautions, you can enjoy time in the sun and stay safe, too.

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Sun Safety Tips