Sun Safety: Pay Attention Or Suffer
Sun safety for individuals means thinking about your overall health, and how the sun will affect it. It could be as simple as putting on a dab of sunscreen before a day out in the summer sun. However, this should not be the only time you actively protect yourself. The sun gives off unseen rays of ultraviolet (UV) light that are made of high-energy wavelengths.
Too much UV exposure not only causes irritable sunburns, but also causes other health problems like premature aging of the skin, eye issues, a weaker immune system, and contributes to skin cancers. These UV rays are present year-round, so it becomes increasingly important to use sun safety products both during and outside of the summer season as well.
Sun Safety Means Using Sunscreen Correctly
It is a common myth that as long as you apply sunscreen daily, it does not matter how much you put on or how long you are exposed to the sun. The American Society for Dermatologic Surgery says that your protection level may be lower than you think if you:
- Do not apply enough sunscreen;
- Do not apply the sunscreen correctly;
- Do not reapply every two hours (or as directed).
According to the American Academy of Dermatology, only one in three teens says they use sunblock while lying out under the sun. The same study goes on to say that 28% of female teens and 14% of male teens claim to never wear sunblock. Even individuals who apply sunscreen every day run the chance of applying sunscreen incorrectly.
To ensure that you’re using sunscreen correctly and adequately, apply sunscreen every day, and apply 30 minutes prior to going outside, and apply graciously. The American Academy of Dermatology suggests that sunscreen should be re-applied after every two hours, or after swimming, sweating, or as specified by the directions on the bottle.
Sun Safety Means Wearing Sunglasses
Aside from being a fashion accessory, sunglasses protect your eyes from the health damages caused by UV rays. Additionally, sunglasses protect your eyes from getting a sunburn. Sunburns on your eyes can lead to cataracts and other eye diseases. As many individuals wear prescription glasses, companies are now creating prescription sunglasses to better serve all people. Read more about whether to choose regular sunglasses or transition lenses.
Although wearing any type of sunglasses is a step in the right direction, polarized sunglasses block more light and UV rays than other types. According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, light scatters and bounces around at varying angles and polarized lenses only allow vertical rays of light to pass through. With all light rays blocked besides vertical rays, objects look more crisp, clear, and there is less strain on the eyes.
Another suggestion for sun safety is to remain hydrated. In order to avoid dehydration, heat exhaustion, and to promote overall health and wellness, you need to drink water each and every day. While the amount varies, it is suggested to drink eight, eight-ounce glasses per day. This can vary from day to day and person to person, but it is even more important to stay hydrated when the weather is hot or humid, as well as when you spend large amounts of time in the sun, or during physical activity. The Mayo Clinic says that not only does water keep your temperature normal, but it also protects sensitive tissues. The article goes on to specify daily water recommendations by gender as:
- 11.5 cups (2.7 liters) of water for women;
- 15.5 cups (3.7 liters) of water for men.
Don’t Be Fooled by Cloud Cover
Although the strongest UV rays are present during the summer, don’t be fooled by a cooler or overcast day. CNN goes into debunking the myth that individuals do not need sunscreen if it is cool or cloudy outside. The article goes on to say that around 80% of the sun’s UV Rays can travel through clouds. Even if the sun isn’t visible, or you don’t feel like you are getting burned, it is important to maintain sun safety anyway.
Watch Out During Winter
Even during the winter months, an individual can become sunburned by UV rays that reflect off of snow or water. You are then vulnerable to the sun at two points; direct exposure, and reflecting exposure. When you are out skiing in the mountains this becomes especially true. Higher elevations expose individuals to twenty-five percent more UV radiationthan UV exposure at sea-level.
One of the easiest and most important sun safety factors for reducing UV ray exposure is to limit the time you spend in the sun. There are certain parts of the day that are hotter or less cloudy than others; avoid these times. Typically the sun’s rays are the strongest between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Avoid spending too much time outside during these hours, and if you are spending any time outside, apply sunscreen.
Take advantage of shady areas, and prioritize sun safety any time you are exposed to the sun’s UV rays. You can check the expected risk of the sun’s UV radiation through the UV Index Forecast. This tool not only is a useful resource to help plan excursions centered outside but also gives recommendations for sun protection to maintain overall health.