During late spring and summer many people like to spend time outside in the sun for fun or work. But overexposure to the sun can damage the skin and could cause skin cancer. Heat stroke, heat exhaustion, heat cramps and heat rash are possible when your become overexerted in the heat. Put your health first in order to enjoy the summer.
What’s Your UV IQ?
The skin is the body’s largest organ. It protects against heat, sunlight, injury, and infection. Yet, perhaps because of all the protection skin provides us, many of us don’t realize the necessity of also protecting skin.
Reasons to protect your skin
The need to protect your skin from the sun has become very clear over the years and is supported by several studies showing that sun exposure to skin is directly linked with skin cancer. The harmful ultraviolet rays from both the sun and sunlamps can cause many other complications besides skin cancer such as eye problems, a weakened immune system, sun spots, wrinkles, and leathery skin.
How to protect your skin
There are simple everyday steps you can take to protect your skin from the sun.
Wear proper clothing
Wearing clothing that will protect your skin from the harmful UV rays is very important. Some examples of protective clothing are long-sleeved shirts and pants. Also, it is important to remember to protect your head and eyes with a hat and UV resistant sunglasses. Keep in mind you can fall victim to sun damage on a cloudy day and in the winter, so dress accordingly all year round.
Do not burn
Sunburns significantly increase one’s lifetime risk of developing skin cancer. It is especially important that children be wary of sunburns as well. Use extra caution when near water, snow, and sand Water, snow, and sand reflect the damaging rays of the sun, which can increase your chance of sunburn, by doubling your UV ray exposure.
Generously apply sunscreen to cover all exposed skin. New FDA regulations require protective sunscreens to have a sun protection factor (SPF) value of at least 15. However, recent research shows sunscreens with SPF values above 50 do not offer extra protection. Also, even if a sunscreen is labeled as “waterproof,” it must be reapplied throughout the day, especially after sweating or swimming. To be safe, apply sunscreen at a rate of one ounce every two hours, thus a full-day (six hour) outing would require one whole tube of sunscreen.
When to protect your skin
UV rays are their strongest from 10am to 4pm. Seek shade during those times to ensure the least amount of harmful UV radiation exposure. When applying sunscreen be sure to reapply to all exposed skin at least 20 minutes before going outside. Reapply sunscreen every two hours, even on cloudy days, and after swimming or sweating.
Protect your eyes
UV rays can also penetrate the structures of your eyes and cause cell damage. According to the CDC, some of the more common sun-related vision problems include cataracts, macular degeneration, and pterygium. The degree of damage depends on the length of exposure to the sun, and the safety measures taken. To protect your vision, wear a wide brimmed hat and sunglasses. Effective sunglasses should block glare, block 99 to 100% of UV rays, and have a wraparound shape to protect eyes from all angles.
When planning your outdoor activities, you can decide how much sun protection you need by checking the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) UV index, which measures the daily intensity of UV rays from the sun on a scale of 1 to 11. A low UV index requires minimal protection, whereas a high UV index requires maximum protection.
Other Helpful Tips
- Wear a wide-brimmed hat to keep your head and face cool. This will also provide added protection from damaging sun exposure. Baseball caps provide little protection except to the face. A hat should protect the neck, face and ears.
- Wear a long-sleeved shirt at all times. It should be light colored and loose fitting except when working around machinery.
- Carry a source of water with you. Take drinks frequently—every 15 minutes. Water is the best drink for hydration.
- Take frequent breaks in the shade or in a cool environment during the hottest times of the day.
- Adjust gradually to working in the heat over a period of 10-20 days.
- Someone suffering from heat exhaustion or heat stroke should be moved to a cool environment, offered sips of water, if conscious, and provided with attention from emergency medical personnel.
- Wear sunscreen that has an SPF of at least 15 to 45 SPF. Make sure children are also adequately protected. The color of a child or adult’s skin does not reduce the chances of sun damage and over exposure. Everyone needs to wear sun screen.
Source: US Department of Health and Human Services,National Safety Council, Agricultural Division, the National Education Center for Agricultural Safety (NECAS)
Information and recommendations are compiled from sources believed to be reliable. The National Safety Council makes no guarantee as to and assumes no responsibility for the correctness, sufficiency or completeness of such information or recommendations. Other or additional safety measures may be required under particular circumstances.