There’s nothing worse than getting out of the pool after a day of fun and feeling your skin hot to the touch and painfully sensitive. Our sunburned skin flakes away in time, but the damage done by the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) light is far more damaging.
July is UV Safety Month, but you don’t have to be outside in the heat of summer to be exposed to its damaging effects. Exposure to UV radiation, regardless of the season or temperature outside, is the primary cause of the most common kinds of skin cancer. Indoor sources like tanning beds and sun lamps can also emit enough UV radiation to cause irreparable damage.
UV Risks and Warning Signs
UV radiation is energy emitted by the sun. These rays are important to maintaining a healthy body, but too much exposure to sunlight can be damaging. We have to be careful, but since we can’t see UV radiation, how do we know when to avoid it? Thankfully, there are multiple factors involved that can be used as a guide, such as:
- Altitude: The higher the elevation, the more UV rays reach the ground. The air temperature in Denver might be a lot cooler than that in New Orleans, but the difference in altitude will have a higher amount of UV radiation reaching the ground.
- Latitude: The closer you are located to the equator, the more intense UV radiation is.
- Time of the Year: For most of the world, UV rays are strongest during the spring and summer. If you live at or near the equator, this effect is a lot less noticeable.
- Amount of Cloud Cover: Depending on what sort of clouds are in the sky, the amount of UV radiation can diminish. But just because the sun is ducking behind clouds does not mean you should skip out on sunscreen.
- Time of Day: The sun is strongest typically between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. These are the hours where UV rays are at their most potent.
- Surface reflection: UV rays bounce off reflective surfaces including cement, snow, sand, and water. If you’re at the beach or the pool, not only will get a dose from the sun itself, but a second helping when it bounced back at you from the water.
Another way to gauge the severity of UV radiation on a given day is to check your local weather channel, website, or the US National Weather Service. A UV Index was developed years ago to give people an idea of how powerful the risk is on any given day. The scale ranges from 1-11+. The higher the number, the more at risk you are for having your skin damaged and getting a sunburn.
How to Protect Yourself from UV Damage
The American Cancer Society has a four-step system for limiting UV exposure that’s easy for adults to remember and fun for kids to repeat. Those four steps?
Slip. Slop. Slap. Wrap.
- Slip on a shirt when you take a dip in the pool, lake, or ocean.
- Slop sunscreen over your exposed skin to neutralize the UV light that contacts your body.
- Slap on a hat to block the sun from reaching your face and head.
- Wrap on sunglasses to keep your eyes and the skin around them from too much exposure.
Following these tips and keeping an eye on the weather conditions can go a long way to keeping your skin safe from damaging UV light.
Sun exposure can be a source of worry but knowing how to stay safe while outside can be the key to keeping your family safe. Staying smart with regards to UV light lets you enjoy the sun without suffering the long-term consequences. In the case of any health emergencies, Texarkana Emergency Center is open 24/7 with concierge-level care for all ages. We want to help the Texarkana community to stay in good health this year, by providing only the very best in health care.
Nutex Health, Inc. supports you and your family’s health. Come visit Texarkana Emergency Center or any one of our concierge-level freestanding facilities for the emergency care you deserve, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.