Summer Resources: Sun Safety

Spending time in the sun can be fun and enjoyable. But too much sun can be dangerous and – in the case of skin cancer – potentially deadly.

Here is some information from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency about the dangers of ultraviolet radiation, how to read the UV Index, as well as some simple steps to protect you and your family from overexposure to UV radiation.

UV Index

According to the EPA, the UV Index provides a forecast of the expected risk of overexposure to UV radiation from the sun. The UV Index is accompanied by recommendations for sun protection and is a useful tool for planning sun-safe outdoor activities. Ozone depletion, as well as seasonal and weather variations, cause different amounts of UV radiation to reach the Earth at any given time. Taking these factors into account, the UV Index predicts the level of solar UV radiation and indicates the risk of overexposure on a scale from 0 (low) to 11 or more (extremely high).

More Resources: Air Quality Alert »

 

What do the numbers mean?

0 to 2 – Low

UV Index Low - GreenA UV Index reading of 0 to 2 means low danger from the sun’s UV rays for the average person.

  • Wear sunglasses on bright days.
  • If you burn easily, cover up and use broad spectrum SPF 30+ sunscreen.
  • Watch out for bright surfaces, like sand, water and snow, which reflect UV and increase exposure.

3 to 5 – Moderate

UV Index Moderate - Yellow

A UV Index reading of 3 to 5 means moderate risk of harm from unprotected sun exposure.

  • Stay in shade near midday when the sun is strongest.
  • If outdoors, wear protective clothing, a wide-brimmed hat, and UV-blocking sunglasses.
  • Generously apply broad spectrum SPF 30+ sunscreen every 2 hours, even on cloudy days, and after swimming or sweating.
  • Watch out for bright surfaces, like sand, water and snow, which reflect UV and increase exposure.

6 to 7 – High

UV Index High - Orange

A UV Index reading of 6 to 7 means high risk of harm from unprotected sun exposure. Protection against skin and eye damage is needed.

  • Reduce time in the sun between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
  • If outdoors, seek shade and wear protective clothing, a wide-brimmed hat, and UV-blocking sunglasses.
  • Generously apply broad spectrum SPF 30+ sunscreen every 2 hours, even on cloudy days, and after swimming or sweating.
  • Watch out for bright surfaces, like sand, water and snow, which reflect UV and increase exposure.

8 to 10 – Very High

UV Index Very High - Red

A UV Index reading of 8 to 10 means very high risk of harm from unprotected sun exposure. Take extra precautions because unprotected skin and eyes will be damaged and can burn quickly.

  • Minimize sun exposure between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
  • If outdoors, seek shade and wear protective clothing, a wide-brimmed hat, and UV-blocking sunglasses.
  • Generously apply broad spectrum SPF 30+ sunscreen every 2 hours, even on cloudy days, and after swimming or sweating.
  • Watch out for bright surfaces, like sand, water and snow, which reflect UV and increase exposure.

11 or More – Extreme

UV Index Extreme - Purple

A UV Index reading of 11 or more means extreme risk of harm from unprotected sun exposure. Take all precautions because unprotected skin and eyes can burn in minutes.

  • Try to avoid sun exposure between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
  • If outdoors, seek shade and wear protective clothing, a wide-brimmed hat, and UV-blocking sunglasses.
  • Generously apply broad spectrum SPF 30+ sunscreen every 2 hours, even on cloudy days, and after swimming or sweating.
  • Watch out for bright surfaces, like sand, water and snow, which reflect UV and increase exposure.

The Shadow Rule

An easy way to tell how much UV exposure you are getting is to look for your shadow:

  • If your shadow is taller than you are (in the early morning and late afternoon), your UV exposure is likely to be lower.
  • If your shadow is shorter than you are (around midday), you are being exposed to higher levels of UV radiation. Seek shade and protect your skin and eyes.

Steps for Sun Safety

Don’t Burn

  • Sunburns significantly increase one’s lifetime risk of developing skin cancer, especially for children.

 

Avoid Sun Tanning and Tanning Beds

  • UV radiation from tanning beds and the sun causes skin cancer and wrinkling.

Apply Sunscreen Often and Generously

  • Generously apply about one ounce of sunscreen to cover all exposed skin 15 minutes before going outside. Sunscreen should have a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of at least 30 and provide broad-spectrum protection from both ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) rays. Reapply every two hours, even on cloudy days, and after swimming or sweating.

Wear Protective Clothing

  • Wear protective clothing, such as a long-sleeved shirt, pants, a wide-brimmed hat, and sunglasses, when possible.

Seek Shade

  • Seek shade when possible
  • Remember that the sun’s UV rays are strongest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.

 

Beware of the Water, Snow, and Sand

  • Water, snow and sand reflect the damaging rays of the sun, which can increase your chance of sunburn.

Check the UV Index

UV Index Scale

  • The UV Index provides important information to help you plan your outdoor activities in ways that prevent sun overexposure.
  • The UV Index forecast is issued daily by the National Weather Service and EPA. (see above for more information)

Get Vitamin D Safely

Reyna DeLoge

  • Get Vitamin D safely through a diet that includes vitamin supplements and foods fortified with Vitamin D. Don’t seek the sun.