- Ultraviolet (UV) radiation is part of the electromagnetic spectrum emitted by the sun
- Overexposure to sunlight is widely accepted as the underlying cause for harmful effects on the skin, eye and immune system
- Take steps to protect yourself including limiting time in the sun and using sunscreen
Spending time in the sun is one of the many things that people enjoy about summertime but too much exposure to the sun can be bad for you.
What is UV radiation?
UV (ultraviolet) radiation is part of the spectrum from the sun. There are three main parts but only two of those impact the population: UVA and UVB. Small amounts of the UV rays are important for Vitamin D production but overexposure can cause more than just sunburns.
According to the World Health Organization, the rise in skin cancer cases over the past decade is strongly related to an increased popularity in outdoor activities.
Every day, there is a measurement of the UV rays that are making it to the ground. This is the UV Index developed by the National Weather Service and Environmental Protection Agency. The scale goes from 0-11+.
- A UV Index reading of 0 to 2 means low danger from the sun's UV rays for the average person.
3 to 5 means a moderate risk of harm from unprotected sun exposure.
6 to 7 means high risk of harm. Protection against skin and eye damage is needed.
8 to 10 means very high risk. Take extra precautions because unprotected skin and eyes will be damaged and can burn quickly.
A UV Index reading of 11 or more means extreme risk of harm from unprotected sun exposure. Take all precautions because unprotected skin and eyes can burn in minutes.
Protection from UV Rays
Taking care of yourself BEFORE going outside and can help you stay safe longer and know what to watch out for.
Shade, clothing and hats provide some of the best protection, but those aren't always available. Applying sunscreen will help protect areas that remain exposed outside of the clothing and hats but should never be used to prolong the duration of time in the sun.
These are the top 6 ways to protect yourself before going outside:
- Limit time in the midday sun
- Know what the UV Index is for the day
- Use shade wisely
- Wear protective clothing
- Use sunscreen
- Avoid tanning bed
Sometimes sun exposure cannot be avoided whether because of your job or by choice to spend the day outside.
Protecting yourself while outside can help you stay healthy.
Here are some things to keep in mind:
DO NOT BURN! Burning increases one's risk of developing skin cancer
- AVOID TANNING BEDS: radiation from tanning beds and the sun causes skin cancer and wrinkling
- GENEROUSLY APPLY SUNSCREEN: Apply 15 minutes before going outside of at least 30 SPF. Reapply every two hours (even on cloudy days).
- WEAR PROTECTIVE CLOTHING: Long-sleeved shirts, wide-brimmed hate, sunglasses
- SEEK SHADE: Hang out in the shade when possible. UV rays are the strongest between 10AM and 4PM
- CAUTION NEAR WATER, SNOW AND SAND: these reflect the sun rays which can increase the chance of sunburn
- CHECK THE UV INDEX: this can help you plan your outdoor activities
- GET VITAMIN D SAFELY: through a diet with foods fortified with Vitamin D
Think about UV safety year-round
It is important to think about UV safety year-round. During the winter and on cloudy days it is just as easy to get sunburned.
During the winter, many don't think about the sun being a problem but it is still possible.
Same idea on cloudy days. It is sometimes easier to get sunburned because you aren't seeing the sun, so it isn't at the top of your mind. This is what happens: the rays that do make it through the clouds reflect off the water and ground and back to the clouds. The clouds then reflect them back to the ground and the cycle repeats itself. You are getting the same amount of exposure but aren't necessarily feeling the heat of the sun like you would on a clear day. It is still important to take the same precautions listed above.
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