According to U.S. National Health Observances, July is UV Safety Month. At the height of summer, when everyone is spending time outdoors, it’s the perfect time to become more informed about ultraviolet—also known as UV—rays. Read on to learn more about what they are, why you need protection and ways to stay safe when you’re out in the sun.
What are UV Rays?
Ultraviolet rays are very strong waves of energy that come from the sun. Classified as either UV-A, UV-B or UV-C rays (according to wavelengths and intensity), only the first two kinds penetrate the ozone layer. While this light does benefit the ecosystem and human health in small doses, it can also be harmful in larger or stronger quantities. Reflected sunlight (from the water, for example) may seem weaker but is actually the most dangerous, because it is also amplified. Fair-skinned adults, senior citizens and children are most susceptible to harm from ultraviolet rays.
Weather services provide daily UV index measurements of 1-10 (lower ratings are better), so you can learn which days are especially dangerous to be outdoors. But did you know that you can also encounter harmful ultraviolet rays indoors? Tanning beds emit UV-A and UV-B, which means that those who visit tanning salons on a regular basis may be 74% more likely to develop melanoma skin cancer. In addition to the tips below, you can learn more about protecting your skin by visiting this article from MayoClinic.com.
How to Stay Safe – Quick Tips
1) Always wear sunscreen. This doesn’t mean just when you’re heading to the beach. Even short-term exposure to UV rays can be harmful during summer months, especially if it’s gained through repeated activity, like a long walk through the parking lot twice a day.
- Look for products with SPF 15 – 50
- Avoid sprays, as the creams provide a greater coating for skin protection when used in an abundant amount
- Use products marked “Broad Spectrum Protection” as those protect against both UVB and UVA radiation
- Areas that most often encounter sunlight are most susceptible, including the hands and face
On the plus side, wearing sunscreen on a daily basis can have cosmetic as well as health benefits—keep your youthful appearance for many extra years with soft, smooth skin.
2) Buy quality sunglasses. Although it is not commonly known, your eyes can sunburn much like your skin. Even if there isn’t immediate sight loss or pain, the damage that is caused by long-term neglect may affect your vision as you age.To protect your eyes, you should always wear a pair of sunglasses that have strong UV protection—an asset that is almost always indicated on the label or lens. Although many people choose sunglasses based on their appearance, a pair of sunglasses that does not block ultraviolet rays is a waste of your hard-earned money. On that same note, not all sunglasses are made equal. A cheaper pair of sunglasses most likely will not offer the same optometric benefits as higher-priced pair, even if they have very dark shades. When you but more expensive sunglasses, you’re not just paying for a designer brand. In most cases, sunglasses are more expensive because they offer much more protection for the delicate surface of your eyes. When in doubt, consult with your eye doctor or primary care physician to pick out the best pair of everyday sunglasses to shield your sight.
3) Keep covered. Sunglasses alone aren’t enough. A hat with a broad lid or brim is an excellent second layer of protection for your eyes as well as your entire face. You should also always keep your body covered when you’re in the sun. It’s hard to think about long sleeves in the summer, but lightweight cottons, linens other breathable fabrics offer plenty of alternatives to stay cool while covering up.Another way to minimize exposure is simply staying indoors when the sun is at its apex between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Even if you’re having a fun family day outdoors, the timing is perfect to head inside for some lunch and refreshments—and a safe break from the sun’s worst rays.