Before you head out the door, read these healthy habits for sun safety
Many of us spend more time outdoors during the summer months, especially as communities continue opening up and more people get their COVID-19 vaccines. While longer days full of sunshine are enjoyable, it’s important to practice sun safety and avoid potential health issues.
The sun, as welcoming as its rays are, can harm our bodies in a relatively short period of time. This includes sunburn, dehydration and long-term health issues like melanoma (skin cancer). Experts agree that UV rays can damage your skin in as little as 15 minutes.
The strength of the sun’s UV rays varies based on factors like the time of day, your location, altitude and cloud cover. Regardless of the conditions outside, it is best to be prepared to safely enjoy the sunshine before you leave home. Here are some tips to enjoy the longer days in the sun safely.
The best prevention to avoid long-term health effects like melanoma is to avoid sunburns. The sun is strongest between 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., so make sure to practice good sun safety habits:
- Use sunscreen, a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30, even on cloudy or cooler days. Reapply every two hours or more frequently if sweating or in water.
- Sunscreen can lose its effectiveness over time, check the expiration date to make sure it is still good to use.
- Consider a reef-safe sunscreen, which is free from chemical ingredients like parabens, PABA, Triclosan, oxybenzone, octinoxate and octocrylene, known to damage the ocean’s coral reef and other marine life.
- Don’t forget your lips! Choose a lip balm with SPF protection.
- Wear clothing made with UV protection material or tightly woven fabric to cover up as much of your skin as possible.
- Choose a brimmed hat to shade your face, ears and back of your neck.
- Sunglasses that offer protection from both types of ultraviolet rays, UVA and UVB are the best choice for your eyes.
As temperatures increase, dehydration can happen quickly, especially if you are being active. Watch for signs of dehydration like increased thirst, dry mouth, muscle cramps, fatigue, lightheadedness, or even a decline in thinking and cognition.
Here are some tips to stay hydrated while enjoying the sun:
- Experts recommended we drink half of our body weight in ounces each day. For example, if you weigh 180 pounds, divide that by two and you get 90; the general rule is you will need to drink 90 ounces of water daily.
- If you are active in the heat of the sun, you will need to drink more than the general rule, about 8-10 oz of water every 30 minutes during exercise.
- As you sweat during exercise, you’re using your body’s electrolytes, which are important for hydration absorption in the body. These can be replenished by adding an electrolyte tab to your water or choosing a beverage that has sodium and potassium in it, preferably one without added sugar.
- Keep in mind that alcohol and caffeinated beverages can make you more dehydrated.
Know before you go
If your day is taking you up a mountain or to higher elevations, be aware that UV rays are more intense at higher elevations. Prepare for your day and be attentive to the signs of sun exposure and dehydration.
If you encounter signs of dehydration, seek protection from the sun and rehydrate slowly- sip water, drinks with electrolytes, diluted fruit juice, or suck on ice chips or popsicles.
If the dehydration is severe, it’s time to see a doctor or go to the emergency room.
Remember these tips when you head outside and enjoy the sunshine safely this summer.