Summertime is here and with that comes the time of more outdoor activities with family and friends. While it is great to stay active, go out for exercise, and get outside for vitamin D, we also need to keep in mind that prolonged exposure to the sun’s rays can be detrimental to both skin and eyes. Additionally, it is important to note the eyes as we tend to forget that due to the emphasis on skin and sunscreen. It is equally important that while July is UV Safety Awareness Month, these are precautionary measures to keep in mind throughout the entire year when being outdoors.
When it comes to radiation emitted by the sun, it can be broken down into two categories; UV-A and UV-B rays. Each of these types can damage the eyes and skin.
- UV-B rays have short wavelengths that reach the outer layer of your skin
- UV-A rays have longer wavelengths that can penetrate the middle layer of your skin
By learning more about the associated risks with taking on prolonged sun exposure, you can learn how to protect yourself from UV rays so that you can safely enjoy the sun and the outdoors.
Here is a brief list of things unprotected sun exposure can cause:
- Vision problems and damage to your eyes
- Developing cataracts
- Macular degeneration
- Suppression of the immune system
- Premature aging of the skin
- Skin cancer
That said, there are numerous things you can do to minimize the risk of prolonged sun exposure:
- Cover up: Wear hats, sunglasses, long sleeve shirts, and pants. Take any of these precautions into consideration depending on the activity you will be taking part in.
- Stay in the shade: The sun's glare and rays are most intense at midday. Staying in the shade between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. will further protect your skin and eyes.
- Choose the right sunscreen: The FDA regulations for sunscreen labeling recommend that your sunscreen have a SPF of at least 15 and should protect against both Ultraviolet A (UV-A) and Ultraviolet B (UV-B) rays.
- Use the right amount of sunscreen: According to the National Council on Skin Cancer Prevention, most people apply only 25-50 percent of the recommended amount of sunscreen. When out in the sun, it's important that you apply at least one ounce (a palmful) of sunscreen every two hours. You should apply it more often if you are sweating or swimming, even if the sunscreen is waterproof.
Following the aforementioned precautions and advice will help you stay safe during your summer activities. If for any reason you feel that you are struggling with sun exposure, please reach out to your healthcare provider.