Safe Under the Sun

Posted: July 8, 2020 Author: Roy Cummings

A few precautions can keep your skin safe this summer.

Summer is here and with it comes an increased desire to get out of the house and do something outdoors. That desire may be even stronger this year, what with so many isolating themselves at home in an effort to avoid contracting the coronavirus.

Before venturing outside, though, it’s always smart to take into account the risks associated with exposure to the sun and its potentially harmful ultraviolet rays. That’s why July has been named UV Safety Awareness Month.

UV light is a form of radiation emitted naturally by the sun, which produces three different UV wavelengths. One of those wavelengths, UVC, is blocked by the ozone layer that protects the earth’s atmosphere.

But the other two UV wavelengths, UVA and UVB, can not only pass through the ozone layer but they can penetrate deep into a person’s skin and cause everything from sunburn to wrinkling of the skin and skin cancer.

That’s why it’s so important to protect the skin from overexposure to the sun, which is hottest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. This is also the time when UV levels and radiation levels are highest, especially at the beach, where the sun’s rays can easily be reflected.

If at all possible then, it’s best to plan outdoor activities for the early-morning or late afternoon hours. No matter the time of the outdoor activity, though, it’s also smart to take a few simple precautionary measures to reduce your risk of suffering skin damage.

Those measures include wearing a hat, preferably a wide brimmed hat; wearing lightweight, light-colored loose-fitting clothing and sunglasses. The latter is a step endorsed by the American Academy of Ophthalmology, and rightfully so.

Because overexposure to the sun can lead to the early development of cataracts and age-related macular degeneration, the AAO recommends wearing sunglasses that are labeled UV400 or come with a label saying they block 100 percent of UV rays.

When outside, it’s always best to spend as much time in the shade as possible, but it’s important to keep in mind that the sun is so powerful that it can still cause skin damage even on a cloudy day or when someone is in the shade.

It’s also important to remember that reflective surfaces such as a white sandy beach, the water in a pool, lake or ocean, even snow on a bright sunny day in the winter, can intensify the sun’s ability to damage skin through UV exposure.

That’s why one of the most important precautionary measures is to wear sunscreen. But not just any sunscreen will do. For the best protection, the US Food and Drug Administration recommends using waterproof sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at l5.

And don’t be conservative with it. When applying sunscreen, it’s best to apply at least an ounce (which amounts to about a palmful) every two hours and to apply it even more frequently when sweating or swimming.

Another step that can be taken to ensure your safe under the sun is to check the UV index for your area prior to going outside. By simply typing in your zip code, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) can give you a UV forecast.

This forecast will give you a number from 1 to 11 that will help you determine just how dangerous the sun is that day and how much protection is needed to avoid serious damage from UV rays. The lower the number, the less protection you’ll need.

Summer is a time for outdoor fun and adventure, but assuring you and others are safe under the sun is one way to ensure you won’t regret you venture outside.

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