Here comes the sun! Are you protected?

It’s natural to want to get out in the sun during these beautiful, but hot summer days. We all need some sun exposure, but it is not without risks. Stay healthy by knowing how to stay safe.

When skin is exposed to the sun, our bodies make vitamin D, which helps the body absorb calcium for stronger, healthier bones. It only takes a little time in the sun for most people to get the vitamin D they need; too much unprotected exposure to the sun's ultraviolet (UV) rays can cause skin damage, eye damage, immune system suppression, and skin cancer.  Ultraviolet (UV) rays – from the sun and other sources like tanning beds – are the #1 cause of skin cancer and even people in their twenties can develop skin cancer. Too much exposure can also cause sunburn, eye damage, and premature wrinkles. 

Who is at risk?

The lighter someone's natural skin color, the less melanin it has to absorb UV rays and protect itself. The darker a person's natural skin color, the more melanin it has. But both dark- and light-skinned people need protection from UV rays because any tanning or burning causes skin damage. A tan is a sign that the skin has been damaged. 

If work keeps you outdoors for a long time your skin could be exposed to more sun than is healthy for you. Every child needs sun protection because just a few serious sunburns can increase your child’s risk of skin cancer later in life.

Here are some tips to stay sun safe.

▪Limit time in the midday sun.  The sun’s UV rays are the strongest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. To the extent possible, limit exposure to the sun during these hours.  According to the FDA, the amount of solar energy that reaches us in 15 minutes at 1 p.m. is the same as we would receive in one hour at 9 a.m. In other words, when the sun is high, exposure is four times as intense.

▪Seek shade when UV rays are the most intense. Keep in mind that shade structures such as trees, umbrellas or canopies do not offer complete sun protection. Remember the shadow rule: Watch your shadow: short shadow, seek shade!

▪Wear protective clothing. A hat with a wide brim offers good sun protection for your eyes, ears, face, and the back or your neck. Sunglasses that provide 99 to 100 percent UV-A and UV-B protection will greatly reduce eye damage from sun exposure. Tightly woven, loose fitting clothes will provide additional protection from the sun.

▪Use sunscreen. Apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen of SPF 15+ liberally and re-apply every two hours, or after working, swimming, playing or exercising outdoors.

▪Avoid sunlamps and tanning beds. Sunbeds damage the skin and unprotected eyes. They are best avoided entirely.

Of course, the sun isn't the only health hazard that presents itself on hot days outdoors. Rising temperatures put people at risk of heat-related illnesses, which include heat exhaustion and deadly heat stroke. Tomorrow, we’ll talk about the effects heat has on us and how to watch for trouble.

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