By: Jane Klaes, DO
July is here with blue skies, hot days and summer vacation. It is time for picnics, parks, swimming and playing in the sun. Here are some tips for enjoying the sun safely:
- Wear long-sleeved shirts, long pants and wide-brimmed hats. If that is not practical for you, wear a cover-up or t-shirt.
- Stay in the shade as much as possible, especially between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., when the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays are at their strongest.
- Wear wrap-around sunglasses that provide as close to 100% UV protection as possible.
- Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water.
- Generously apply sunscreen 15 minutes before sun exposure, and reapply every two hours (more frequently when swimming or sweating).
FDA labeling of sunscreens has changed to make it easier for you to choose a product that provides adequate protection from the harmful effects of the sun. Look for a sunscreen that is labeled “broad-spectrum” and has an SPF rating of at least 15. “Broad-spectrum” means that it protects against both UVA and UVB rays. UVB protection prevents sunburn, but both UVA and UVB rays can cause skin cancers. UVA rays also cause premature skin aging, such as sun spots, wrinkles and “leathery” skin. If a sunscreen does not have the label “broad-spectrum,” it may not have UVA protection. Sunscreens are no longer able to contain labels saying that they are waterproof. Instead, they may be labeled “water-resistant” and list a time period that they are proven effective in water (40 or 80 minutes).
It is best to keep babies under six months of age out of the sun due to their thinner, more sensitive skin. Keep them in the shade with long sleeves, pants and hats. If it is not possible to avoid sun exposure, apply sunscreen in small amounts to exposed areas, and wash off afterwards.
Though most of us enjoy the sunny days of summer, it is very important to keep in mind that the sun’s radiation is classified as a human carcinogen. According to the American Cancer Society, skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the United States, with over two million new cases found each year. Broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF 15 or higher does not completely protect from harmful UV rays, but it does help when combined with other sun protection measures. While enjoying your time outdoors this summer, please remember to protect your skin, even on cloudy days. Help your family to develop good sun protection habits that will benefit them throughout their lives.