It is summer again, and with it comes the anticipation of being outside and enjoying free time and vacations in the warm sun! Whether you are planning to see family and friends, or just planning on an afternoon outside, it is important to protect yourself against Ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun.
While there are damaging effects that too much exposure to UV rays can cause on our skin, there are easy ways to stay protected and be safe in the sun. Ultraviolet rays come in two types, UV-A and UV-B, and both can cause damage. The strength of these rays is determined by several factors, like the weather, the time of day, elevation, and season.
Some important facts to remember are:
- Even on a cloudy day, it is important to protect yourself. UV rays can still get to the ground.
- UV rays are strongest when the sun is at its peak, between 10 am and 4 pm.
- The higher your altitude, the more UV rays can reach you.
- UV rays are strongest during spring and summer, where there are more hours of daytime.
Exposure to sunlight has positive effects too, like reducing stress, offering more space for exercise, enhancing mood, and helping you produce vital vitamins in your body (like Vitamin D). Though if you plan to be outside and in direct sunlight for a long time (more than two hours), you should be protecting yourself from UV radiation. To do this, you can limit your time in the sun in some simple ways.
Shade and Shadows
One of the best ways to protect yourself is to stay in the shade as much as possible. UV rays can reflect off surfaces in the same way light does. For example, even if you are shaded by an umbrella at the beach, you should consider rays bouncing off of the ocean and the sand.
One good way to test for yourself how strong the sun is at a particular time is to look at your shadow. The length of your shadow indicates how high in the sky the sun is, and when the sun is at its peak, UV rays are strongest.
When it comes to protecting yourself, the key is to make sure you protect your skin from direct exposure. The American Cancer Society has a catchphrase they like to use: “Slip! Slop! Slap!® and Wrap,” which means:
- Slip on a shirt.
- Slop on sunscreen.
- Slap on a hat.
- Wrap on sunglasses.
Sunscreens with broad-spectrum protection protect against both UVA and UVB rays while SPF sunscreen protects against UVB rays.The higher the number (15, 30, 50, etc.) the stronger the sunscreen, though you need to reapply sunscreen at least every 90 minutes. You should also make sure that you apply the correct amount: about a palmful or one ounce on exposed skin for the average adult every two hours.
Stay safe with these tips! If you have any questions about sun safety, reach out to your provider at Community Health Connections. Your care team is always happy to answer any questions you may have to help keep you and your family healthy!