Summer weather extends an invitation to head outside and enjoy the beautiful days, but we must also be aware and prepared to protect ourselves from the dangerous effects of prolonged exposure to that delightful sunshine.
It’s no secret that exposure to UV rays can cause detrimental issues, including premature skin aging and wrinkling, skin damage and skin cancer, so it is always important to continue practice sun safe habits for ourselves and our children. Remember, the sun doesn’t have to be shining to emit harmful UV exposure.
Excessive sun and UV exposure in the first 15 years of life can contribute to lifetime risks of skin cancer. Discuss the risks of sun exposure with your family and help them understand the benefits of looking after their own skin as they get older. This will ultimately influence how effectively they protect their skin later in life and make being safe in the sun a lifelong habit.
Limiting UV Exposure
- Limit the time outdoors between the hours of 10 am and 4 pm
- As little as 15 minutes of sun exposure can lead to skin damage
- Avoid artificial tanning in tanning beds
- Use a ‘broad spectrum’ sunscreen – protects against UVA/UVB rays
- Choose a sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or more
- No sunscreen offers complete protection; wear protective clothing and seek shade
- Check the expiration date; usually 2-3 years unless exposed to high temperatures
- Ensure the skin is clean and dry
- Allow 15-30 minutes after application before sun exposure
- Apply to arms, legs, front and back of the body, face, neck and ears
- Reapply every 2-3 hours
- Reapply more often if swimming, sweating or towel-drying
- Babies over the age of six months may have sunscreen applied as instructed by your pediatrician
Shading and Clothing
- Infants should remain in the shade and out of direct sunlight
- Seek shade under an umbrella, tree or shelter close-by
- Wear UV protective clothing and swimwear or tightly-woven clothing
- Wear wide-brimmed hats that shades the ears, face and neck
- Choose sunglasses with 100% UV protection
Proper protection from the sun typically results in less risk of UV exposure and skin damage. Unfortunately, those who suntan, use tanning beds or have a family history of skin cancer, still have an increased risk of developing skin cancer. If you have concerns regarding your skin health, be sure to contact your primary care physician who can provide a proper evaluation and perform a skin exam. A proactive approach is key to early detection and a better chance for treatment and recovery.
Being mindful of the risks of sun exposure and setting a good example as a role model to those who are younger can help everyone enjoy fun in the sun safely!
We thank the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Cancer Society for the information in this article.