Ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun or indoor tanning damage the skin. Even a tan is a response to injury, not an indication of good health, as some may perceive. There are many risk factors that can contribute to sunburns, and skin cancer including: family history of skin cancer, sun exposure sun through work and play, history of sunburns (especially early in life), history of indoor tanning, freckles, skin reddens easily or becomes painful in the sun, if you have blue or green eyes, blonde or red hair, and certain types of moles and/or a large number of specific types of moles.
Protection from UV rays is important all year round, not just during the summer months. UV rays from the sun can reach the Earth on a cloudy, hazy day as well as bright and sunny days. UV rays also reflect off of surfaces such as water, cement, sand, and snow. The hours between 10:00am and 4:00pm during late Spring and Summer are the most hazardous for UV exposure outdoors in North America.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC, 2014) recommends easy options for protection from UV radiation for adults and children.
- Stay in the shade during peak hours (10:00am to 4:00pm) Plan indoor activities with children during this time unless you can be under an umbrella, seek shade under a tree, or under a pop up tent. An infant’s best defense is sun avoidance.
- Wear clothing that covers your arms and legs. Long sleeve shirts and pants may not always seem practical in the Texas summer, but a t-shirt, long shorts, a beach cover-up are good choices too. It is wise to double up on protection by applying sunscreen in the shade when possible.
- Wear a hat that has a brim to protect your eyes, head, ears, and neck. Baseball caps do not protect ears and neck, so you must apply sunscreen in those exposed areas.
- Wear sunglasses that wrap around and offer both UVA and UVB protection.
- Use Sunscreen with sun protective factor (SPF) 15 or higher and UVA a/UVB protection. Plan ahead, keep a spare bottle of sunscreen in the car, in your purse, or a child’s backpack. For best protection apply sunscreen generously 30 minutes prior before going outdoors. Don’t forget to protect your ears, nose, lips, and the top of your feet! Always follow the directions on the package. All products do not have the same ingredients. If you or your child’s skin reacts to a product, call your primary care provider and avoid that product.
- Reapply sunscreen. Especially if outdoors swimming or exercising. This applies to both water resistant and waterproof products as well.
- Avoid indoor tanning beds and booths.
Try combining sunscreen with other options such as hats, sunglasses, and shade options to prevent UV damage!