July Is UV Safety Awareness Month
Every July, America flocks to the outdoors to celebrate Independence Day, warmer summer temperatures, and all things summer. Pool parties, backyard barbecues, camping trips, fishing and hiking excursions, and more are the norm for the hot summer months. While many people take proper safety precautions when it comes to being near water, staying away from the hot grill, and making sure you’re prepared for any surprises when hiking and camping, we often overlook the importance of protecting ourselves from the sun. The sun sends ultraviolet rays to the earth all year round, but they are especially powerful during the summer, which is just when we happen to be spending far more time outside. Your best chance at staying safe from harmful UV rays is to stay educated, be proactive, and plan ahead to protect your skin.
What Is Ultra Violet Radiation?
Ultraviolet (UV) radiation are invisible rays that are part of the energy that comes from the sun. Overexposure to the sun’s UV rays can cause damage to the skin and cause different types of skin cancer. It’s always important to stay safe when your family is playing in the sun. While it may seem like a sunburn is a temporary irritation, it can leave long-lasting damage to your skin. According to the Melanoma Research Foundation, “Just one blistering sunburn during childhood can double the chances of developing melanoma later in life.”
Sources of UV Rays
The sun is, by far, the most substantial source of UV rays. While other types of UV rays may come from other sources, they are far less detrimental to our skin than the type that comes from the sun. However, tanning beds are another source of UV radiation, and these are no safer than lying in the direct sunlight in the middle of the afternoon. In order to prevent the risk of developing skin cancer, it’s best to limit your time in tanning beds or use a sunless tanner to help achieve that beautiful bronze glow, and you should certainly take precautions when spending time outdoors, particularly in the afternoons during the summer months, as this is when the UV rays are strongest and most harmful.
Protecting Yourself from UV Radiation
Exposure to UV rays is the leading cause of skin cancer, and about 9,500 people are diagnosed with skin cancer in the United States every day. In fact, about 20% of all Americans will have some form of skin cancer before they turn 70 years old. As with most things, prevention is key. The best way to protect yourself against skin cancer and other skin troubles is to exercise caution with UV rays and take care to protect yourself from the harmful effects of UV radiation.
Here are a few tips that can help protect you from harmful UV rays:
- Wear sunscreen that provides both UVA and UVB protection with an SPF of at least 30. Be sure to reapply it regularly, especially when you’re in water or sweating a lot.
- Wear protective clothing such as wide-brimmed hats, pants, long-sleeved shirts, and sunglasses, when possible.
- The sun is at its strongest from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., so try to take a break in the shade or indoors during those hours.
- Avoid tanning beds.
- Early detection of melanoma or any skin cancer is important. Both monthly self skin examinations and yearly skin examinations by your health care provider can help identify melanoma early.
What to Look for in UV Protection Products
When you’re shopping for sunblock to use this summer, make sure you’re choosing high-quality products that work well and are safe for everyone in your family. As more research has been done on UV rays and the effectiveness of sunscreens, shopping for this product has gotten a little more involved. It used to be about just picking the highest SPF you could find, but it’s not quite that simple and straightforward anymore.
UVB rays are the ones responsible for sunburns and are the most commonly linked to skin cancer, but studies have shown that UVA rays also cause cancer, though they may not cause the sunburns that are linked to cancer.
SPF generally refers only to protection against UVB rays, not UVA rays. SPF 15 is enough for most people, as it protects from about 93% of UVB rays. SPF 30 isn’t twice as strong, contrary to popular belief, and it protects from about 97% of UVB rays, so it’s not substantially more effective. When it comes to protecting yourself from UVA rays, you need to look for the term “broad-spectrum” on your sunscreen bottle or search the ingredients list. The ingredients that block UVA rays include ecamsule, avobenzone, oxybenzone, titanium dioxide, sulisobenzone, or zinc oxide.
Another important factor in choosing a sunscreen is water resistance. Water-proof sunscreen isn’t a thing, so don’t assume that you can apply once for the day and be done. But water-resistant sunscreen will allow you to reapply less frequently even if you’re in the water or sweating a lot.
If you have kids or allergies, you may need to opt for some sensitive skin or kid-friendly options, so be sure to take that into account during your search as well.
Tips to Stay Safe from UV
This July, be sure to stay safe from UV radiation during all of your outdoor activities. Also be sure to exercise caution with other parts of your outside fun, no matter where you are or what you’re doing.
While camping and hiking, be sure to have a shady area to rest in during the heat of the day. Also be sure to bring along bug spray, a first aid kit, and sanitation gear. Make certain you are following food safety guidelines as well.
During backyard barbecues and outdoor parties, make sure to put on your sunscreen and dress appropriately to stay cool but also protected from the sun. Make use of food safety guidelines and temperatures and be sure to limit your alcohol consumption. Remember that both the sun and alcoholic beverages can cause dehydration, so when those two things are combined, you can get to a dangerous level of dehydration much faster.