Health News

Staying Safe in the Summer Sun

Summer has arrived, and with it comes a drastic increase in the time we spend outdoors. From barbecuing in the backyard to visiting the beach with your family, the summer months are spent soaking up the sun like no other time of the year.

Staying Safe in the Summer Sun

And while regular, controlled exposure to the sun has a plethora of benefits, too much of anything is bad for our health. Overexposure to the sun can result in sunburn, wrinkling, premature aging of the skin and even skin cancer. To keep yourself and your family safe from the sun this summer, follow these tips:

  • Limit your exposure to the sun during peak hours. Exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays is most hazardous between 10 am and 4 pm, so seek shade during these hours.
  • Wear clothing that protects your skin like long-sleeved shirts and long pants whenever possible. For maximum UV protection, make sure the fabric is dark and tightly woven. Remember that when your clothes are wet – such as when you are at the beach – your UV protection is lowered, and you must take additional steps to keep your skin safe.
  • Protect your eyes by getting a good pair of sunglasses. Effective sunglasses will block at least 99% of both UVA and UVB rays. While most sunglasses sold in the US meet this standard, it is always best to check with the manufacturer to ensure you’re investing in the safest possible pair of sunglasses.
  • Wide-brimmed hats are ideal for shading the face, head, ears and neck. Avoid straw hats that let in sunlight and baseball caps that do not cover the ears and back of the neck.
  • For areas that are still unprotected, always use sunscreen. Choose a sunscreen that offers broad spectrum protection – that is, offers both UVA and UVB protection. UVB rays are the main cause of sunburn, while UVA rays can cause skin cancer, premature skin aging and wrinkling. While all sunscreens filter out UVB rays, not all of them filter out UVA radiation, so using a sunscreen with broad spectrum protection is very important for your health.
  • Your sunscreen should have a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30. SPF is the level of protection the sunscreen offers against UVB rays. While the protection does increase the higher SPF numbers go, after SPF 30, which filters out 97 percent or UVB ray, the differences in protection are minimal. According to the FDA, SPF 15 is the lowest a sunscreen can be without being required to include a warning that it only protects against sunburn, not skin cancer.
  • Sunscreen wears off with time as well as after making contact with water, so be sure to reapply it after every two hours and or after you go swimming.

If you’re caught in the outside without sun protection, seek shade to minimize damage to your skin. And if you do end up with a sunburn, there are steps that you can take to minimize the damage.

  • Place a cold, damp, clean cloth on the burn for 15-20 minutes a few times every day and take frequent cold showers to help relieve the pain.
  • Slather moisturizing cream or lotion on the affected area after a cool bath or shower to help sooth the sting of the sunburn. Use a moisturizer that contains aloe vera to speed up the healing process and avoid skin products that contain petroleum, because it traps heat in the skin.
  • To cut down on swelling, pain and redness, take and anti-inflammatory like ibuprofen or naproxen.
  • Keep yourself hydrated, since sunburn draws fluid to the skin surface and away from the rest of your body.

While the common sunburn can be treated at home, if the burn refuses to subside or covers more than 20% of the body (such as a child’s whole back), make sure to see your medical provider.