There is a lot to love about the summer sun. With more sunshine and nice weather, you are free to engage in activities and to go places that may have been less ideal during the winter months. Furthermore, the sun’s UV radiation helps the body produce vitamin D, which is important for health.
While there are many benefits to sunny summer days, the additional UV exposure does come with health risks. Beyond the painful sunburn that can occur, UV radiation is the number one cause of skin cancer. That is why July is UV Safety Month. It is the best time to raise awareness of the risks of UV radiation and to learn about protecting yourself and children from the harmful effects of the sun’s rays.
Children need protection from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays whenever they’re outdoors. Shade and sunscreen protect children from sun exposure and can help to reduce the risk of some skin cancers.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), even a few major sunburns can increase the risk of skin cancer later in life. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends the following guidelines regarding sun safety and the selection and application of sunscreen:
- If possible, use play areas that provide some shade to help children stay cool.
- Protect infants under 6 months from direct sunlight by keeping them inside and if they have to be outside, choose a shady spot under a tree, umbrella, or stroller canopy.
- Limit children’s sun exposure between 10 am and 4 pm when UV rays are the strongest.
- Obtain written permission from children’s parents/ guardians to use a sunscreen with a SPF (sun protection factor) of at least 15. Choose a “broad- spectrum” sunscreen to screen out both UVB and UVA rays.
- Apply sunscreen at least 30 minutes before going outdoors so it is absorbed into the skin. It will need to be reapplied every two hours if children are outside for more than an hour, and more frequently if they are playing in water.
- For children older than 6 months, apply sunscreen to all exposed areas, including children’s ears if they are wearing a cap instead of a hat.
Wear Protective Clothing
- Encourage families to dress children in cool clothing such as lightweight cotton pants and long-sleeved shirts. A hat will protect their face, ears, and the back of their neck. Clothing can offer some of the best protection from UV rays. If you are going to be outside for a long time, try to wear clothes that cover most of your skin.
When choosing clothes with sun protection in mind, consider the colors of the clothes and the fabric. Darker materials tend to provide better protection than lighter colors, and tightly woven fabric is going to protect you better than fabric that is looser and lighter.
Stay in the Shade
Reducing exposure to direct sunlight is one of top recommendations to prevent damage from UV radiation. If you are going to be outside for a long time, try to avoid direct sunlight and stay in the shade. This is especially important during the summer months and between the hours of 10 am and 4 pm as these are the times when the sun’s rays are at their most intense,
One tip to help you avoid direct sunlight is to bring some shade with you when you are going to be outdoors. If there is no shaded area for you to stay under when you are outside, bringing an umbrella can be one way to keep yourself shaded on sunny days.
Protect Your Eyes
Beyond protecting your skin from UV radiation, you also need to take steps to protect your eyes. Prolonged exposure to the sun can increase your risk of developing a variety of eye diseases, so you should try to wear sunglasses any time you are going to spend a lot of time outside in the sun.
When shopping for sunglasses, consider the wraparound design to get more protection. Furthermore, read the labels to find out if they offer adequate sun protection. Some sunglasses can block out up to 99% of UV rays from the sun. If they do not have a label representing the level of sun protection they provide, you should not assume that they will provide any protection to your eyes.
July is UV Safety Month and that means that it is time to be mindful of the risk that comes with too much sun exposure. Make efforts to protect yourself and the children from UV rays and remind others of these important steps!