senior man and woman on sunny beach in wetsuits

Know the Basics: Summer Sun Safety

*Note: August is Summer Sun Safety Month.

(August 18, 2022) – Few things are as satisfying as a glorious summer day: cloudless skies, body-soothing warmth, and the clear, strong light of summer. As with most things, however, such pleasure comes at a price. Without sufficient care, gorgeous days can result in sunburns almost immediately and lead to more dire health concerns over time.

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, as the saying goes, and it’s good advice. Plan in advance how to keep yourself protected. Despite your best intentions, the sun can wreak havoc on your body, so it’s important to stay vigilant and not lose track of time outside, whether you’re going for a quick walk, working in the yard, or reading for a few minutes.

Before Going Outside

senior man and woman on sunny beach in wetsuitsMany sun safety measures are commonplace: If you’ll be outdoors, wear clothing that blocks the sun’s rays, and make your garments light-colored and lightweight. Wear a hat with a wide brim. If you’re intent on sunbathing, use a good amount of high-SPF sunscreen, and reapply it frequently. (A shot glass full – about one ounce – every two hours is recommended). Sweat and sand can diminish the impact, so be aware. If you’re responsible for children, being attentive is doubly important. It’s said that even one sunburn can contribute to future health concerns, so be vigorous in slathering youngsters with a good-quality sunscreen. (The American Academy of Dermatology recommends an SPF of 30 or higher.)

Treating a Sunburn

If you do happen to burn, don’t linger outside. Head indoors where it’s cool, and take a pain reliever to head off any potential discomfort. Apply a moisturizer to your skin, preferably one with aloe vera to help with the healing, and drink plenty of water to stay hydrated. It’s a good idea to regularly cool your skin, whether that’s done by applying towels dampened with cold water or relaxing in a cool bath that’s had a little baking soda added. If your skin peels, keep using moisturizer, and don’t pop blisters if they appear – that runs the risk of infection.

Don’t Forget the Eyes

Sunglasses are also essential for good eye health. Don’t choose frames simply because they look good; make sure they offer 100% protection against both UVA and UVB rays. Be careful of vintage glasses too, because they likely don’t have sun-filtering protection embedded in the lenses like modern glasses do. And if possible, buy wraparound styles, because they do a better job of shielding the eyes from the side as well as from the front.

Do a Self-Check

One of the most critical aspects of sun health and safety is knowing your own body. Take note of changes in sensation, appearance, and function that may affect your skin, eyes, and head. If a mole starts behaving differently or your skin has an unusual texture or your eyes are giving you trouble, don’t hesitate to see a doctor for a professional evaluation. Early detection is key to heading off any potential concerns.

Avoid Overexposure

According to the American Cancer Society, in an average year, approximately 3.3 million Americans are diagnosed with some 5.4 million cases of skin cancer. Typically, they’re basal and squamous types, which are more prone to appear in places that have been exposed to the sun, like the backs of hands, face, ears, neck, and lips. Everyone feels immune to cancer until it strikes – and it can be deadly – so take a few extra minutes to protect yourself and diminish your chances of developing any serious issues. Fun in the sun is a summertime must. Just make sure to enjoy it with forethought and plenty of preventive care!

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