A Guide to Summer Sun Protection

We all love a good summertime soak in the sun — if you’re lucky, the warm weather will bring outdoor activities like hiking, barbecuing, and hanging out near the pool or beach.

Too much fun in the sun, however, can be harmful. July is UV awareness month, which makes it the perfect time to reflect on ways to protect your skin and eyes from the sun’s harmful radiation.

Try these simple steps to protect your skin every day:

 1. Time of day: The hours just before and after midday are most hazardous for UV exposure, generally from 10 am to 4 pm. Avoid outdoor activities during this time, if possible. Practice the shadow rule: if your shadow is shorter than you, the sun’s rays are at their strongest, and you should find shade. If you’re heading to the beach, bring an umbrella or a tent to help you stay shaded.

2. Clothing: If possible, wear a long-sleeved shirt and long pants. Dark clothing with tightly woven fabric blocks more sun than white or loosely woven fabrics. For additional protection, look for clothes made with special sun-protective materials.

3. Sunscreen: By reflecting, scattering, or absorbing UV rays, sunscreens are a valuable tool in protecting the skin. Choose a broad spectrum sunscreen that protects against both UVA and UVB radiation. Make sure it is water resistant and has an SPF of 30 or higher.

4. Sunglasses: Large, wraparound sunglasses provide good protection since they prevent UV rays from entering from the side. Most sunglasses sold in the US protect against both UVA and UVB types of rays, both of which can be harmful.

5. Hats: Darker colored, wide-brimmed hats, made of tightly woven fabric like cloth are excellent for covering the face, nose, ears, and neck. Avoid straw hats which may allow UV rays to penetrate through the holes.

  • A half hour before going outdoors, apply sunscreen generously to all exposed skin ( the suggested amount is about 1 ounce, which is the same as two tablespoons). Then reapply at least every two hours. Don’t forget to apply sunscreen on the face, ears, hands, and lips.
  • When swimming, reapply much more frequently, even if the sunscreen says that it is waterproof or water resistant.

6. Children: Keep babies younger than six months old completely covered and in the shade.

7. Medications: Be even more cautious if you are taking medications that may make you more sensitive to the sun.  Those with certain health conditions or on medications including antibiotics, anti-inflammatories, antifungals, blood pressure medications, may be at an even greater risk.

8. Use sunscreen every day – even if it’s cloudy!  According to the CDC, skin damage can occur from as little as 15 minutes of unprotected sun exposure. Overexposure to UV rays can occur not only on hot, sunny days — but on cool, hazy, and cloudy days, as well. (It’s not the temperature that burns your skin, it’s the sun’s invisible ultraviolet radiation.)

Protecting yourself and family from the dangers of sun exposure is essential for a happy, healthy, and safe summer. Keeping your family and home safe and protected is important to Catholic Health Services. To learn more about us, visit www.catholichealthservices.org.