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June 8, 2013

Summer Safety: Fighting sun exposure

First in a weekly series

-- — As area residents begin their summer activities, it is important to remember the dangers that summer can bring if one is not careful.  

Whether it is swimming, tanning or boating, summer activities often involve being out in the sunshine. And while the sunshine is certainly a mood lifter, protecting yourself from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays is one of the most important things to remember this summer.

The sun’s rays are composed of three different UV wavelengths: UVA, UVB and UVC. While UVC isn’t a concern for skin cancer, over-exposure to UVA and UVB radiation is one of the leading causes of skin cancer. The simplest way to avoid overexposure to these rays is to avoid the sunlight, but that takes almost all of the fun out of summer.

Below are ways to protect skin from these harmful rays, while still being able to enjoy being outdoors.

Use Sunscreen: It is important to remember to always use sunscreen, even for those who aren’t planning on being outside much that day. Applying sunscreen every day builds the habit of always applying sunscreen, meaning if a person ends up spending several hours outdoors, though that may not have been planned, they will be protected.

When selecting a sunscreen, always use a sun protective factor (SPF) of at least 15. Also, make sure that the sunscreen fights both UVA and UVB rays. Sunscreen also wears off, so it is important to remember to reapply after two hours of sun exposure, swimming or sweating.

Cover up: Summertime means that many people will be wearing tank-tops, shorts and sun dresses, which means a lot of exposed skin. A person planning on walking around in the sun while wearing skin-exposing clothing should try remembering to wear a sun hat or shawl. A person who is at the beach or swimming should also wear a sun hat or beach cover-up when possible. Another way to cover up while at the beach is to use an umbrella.

Seek shade: Whether it is the shade of an awning, tree or umbrella, seeking shade when outside is a quick and easy way to avoid sun exposure. Those who are outdoors shopping or running errands, should try to walk under the covered areas of sidewalks. While lounging around the pool or working in the yard, attempt to find a large tree’s shade to take refuge during the hottest times of the day.

Avoid the outdoors between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.: Between April and October, these hours are when the sun is the most dangerous. When possible, avoid going outdoors during these times. Doing yardwork or running errands in the evenings can help avoid sun exposure during these hours.

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