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The Basics of Sun Safety

Family Medicine
June 27, 2019
Blog The Basics of Sun Safety, Yakima Valley Farm Workers Clinic

Once summer is here, it’s fun to get outside and enjoy the warmer weather. Unfortunately, with increased sun exposure comes several safety issues that you shouldn’t ignore.

Below, we’ll learn exactly how to stay safe in the sun this summer.

Why Is Sun Safety Important?

Getting sun outdoors can be good and bad. Mostly, it’s about moderation. Too much sun is bad for you because it can cause things like:
·   Sunburn
·   Heat rash
·   Skin cancer
·   Eye damage
·   Heat exhaustion
·   Heat stroke
·   Wrinkles
·   Sun spots
·   Loss of skin elasticity

Most of these negative reactions to the sun come from exposure to harmful ultraviolet, or UV, sun rays. There are two types of UV rays that cause you harm: UVA and UVB rays. Both of these rays damage your skin cells’ DNA, causing bad reactions such as sunburn, skin cancer, and wrinkled skin.

4 Steps for Staying Safe in the Sun

Follow these four guidelines for optimal sun safety:

1. Use sunscreen whenever you’re outside.

Whenever you plan to be outside, use sunscreen. Everyone over the age of six months needs it. Babies younger than six months old should be kept completely out of the sun.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends using a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15. SPF stands for sun protection factor. This is a measure of how well a sunscreen can protect your skin from harmful UVA and UVB sunrays.

Here are some other guidelines to follow when using sunscreen:
- Sunscreen should be worn anytime you go outside. For most people, this means every day.
- Apply sunscreen to your exposed skin, concentrating on areas that get the most exposure. This includes your nose and face, the tops of your shoulders, your forearms and hands, etc.
- If you have trouble remembering to apply sunscreen every day, try products that already have sunscreen in them. Many creams, makeup products, aftershave lotions, and bug sprays also have an SPF.
- Remember to choose products labeled specifically as sunscreen. Suntan lotion and tanning oil are not the same thing and won’t provide enough protection.
- If you plan to spend a lot of time outdoors or if you work outdoors, choose an SPF higher than 15. SPF 40 or 50 is good.
- Even high SPF sunscreens won’t last all day and must be reapplied every two hours.
- If you plan to go swimming or get wet while you’re outdoors, look for a sunscreen that’s waterproof. You should also reapply your sunscreen after getting wet.

2. Wear protective clothing.

For ideal sun protection, cover as much of your skin as you’re comfortable with. This doesn’t mean you have to dress like it’s winter outside, but it always helps to do things like wearing a hat, covering babies and small children with “swim shirts,” and choosing longer pants and skirts over shorter ones.

3. Protect your eyes with sunglasses.

Always wear sunglasses outdoors. Harmful UVA and UVB rays can damage your eyesight and increase your risk of developing cataracts. The skin around your eyes is also especially delicate and susceptible to sun damage.
Look for sunglasses that specifically block both UVA and UVB sunrays.

4. Stay hydrated with plenty of water.

Being outdoors and exposed to the sun often means you’ll get dehydrated faster. For this reason, always have a bottle of water handy, and drink more than you typically would on a day spent indoors.

Fluids other than water are OK too, but only when they are nonalcoholic and do not contain caffeine. For example, most juices and sports drinks are OK for staying hydrated.

Some Sun Can Be Good for You

We know that too much sun can be bad for you, but your body still needs some sunlight to stay healthy.

One way that the sun helps humans is by providing vitamin D, an essential nutrient that:
• Regulates calcium
• Regulates blood pressure
• Promotes strong, healthy bones

Getting a moderate amount of sun can also help with mood regulation, stress reduction, improved sleep, and seasonal affective disorder symptoms. Again, it’s all about moderation and not overdoing it.

Heading Out Into the Sun? Always Plan Ahead

Much of what you should know about sun safety comes down to planning ahead:
• Know the weather before you go out and plan accordingly.
• Keep sunscreen at home and in your car, purse, and beach bag, so you’re never without it.
• Always have your sunglasses on-hand.
• Always keep fresh drinking water nearby as well.
• Have a designated shady or cool spot nearby so you can go there quickly if you start to overheat (for example, under a tree or umbrella).
• Plan your time outdoors, never spend too much time in direct sunlight.

By planning ahead and following these sun safety guidelines, you can feel good about enjoying the beautiful, warm rays of the sun whenever you’re outdoors.