Spring Into Sun Safety

Sunscreen and a hat are important items to bring along when you plan outdoor fun. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Outdoor fun is an important part of the season, but equally important is taking proper care of your skin.

Submitted by Ellen Sanders-Nirenstein, RN-BC, Director of Community Benefit Ministry, The Mercy Community

Sunscreen and a hat are important items to bring along when you plan outdoor fun. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Sunscreen and a hat are important items to bring along when you plan outdoor fun. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Spring is here, snow is behind us and summer awaits! Our Celebrate West Hartford and Memorial Day Parade will offer sunny outdoor festivities for all, but outdoor fun should always be combined with thoughtful care of our skin.

Our skin acts as a waterproof insulating shield for our bodies. Yet, it needs our attention and protection from the extremes of heat or cold. For spring and summer outdoor adventures, medical professionals advise us to keep these ideas in mind:

Use Plenty of Sunscreen

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend using a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 for direct and prolonged exposure to the sun. UVA and UVB rays come from the sun’s electromagnetic field. They are naked to the eye. UVA and UVB rays penetrate our atmosphere and play an important role in our health. To protect from these rays, take care to apply a sufficient amount of sunscreen to all of your exposed skin. Pay attention to often forgotten areas like lips, ears, backs of knees and neck, feet and – yes – even between toes. Look for sunscreens with both UVA and UVB coverage, which will block both kinds of damaging ultraviolet sunlight.

Timing is Everything

Our New England sun is most potent between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m.. Start early and apply sunscreen at least 30 minutes before you go outside. It takes approximately 20 minutes for sunscreen to become effective after application. Limit time spent directly in the sun. Take breaks if you’re celebrating the great outdoors – duck under a shady tree or beneath a canopy.

Many types of sunburn occur when outdoor activities last longer than expected. Take sunscreen with you and reapply sunscreen frequently, especially after swimming or vigorous exercise.

Hats, Brims, and Clothing, Oh My!

When outdoors, wear a hat with a wide brim, sunglasses, a parasol perhaps (they seem to be making a fashion comeback) and loose clothing. A fabric that has a tight weave allows less sun rays through. Open weave fabrics have holes that do not block the sun’s rays from our skin.

Sun protective clothing is now widely available; this apparel has UV chemicals in the fabric. An internet search will provide many sources for a wide variety of UV clothing. UV protective clothing is a reliable form of sun protection combined with sunscreen and timing of skin exposure.

Cloudy Days Also Call for Protection

Cloudy days are tricky! Ultraviolet rays can damage and burn your skin right through the cloud cover. Once again, sunscreens, hats, sunglasses and sun protective clothing are best.

Extra Cute Needs Extra Care!

Kids need sun protection too. Our children’s delicate skin needs sunscreen applied every time they go outdoors. A sunscreen with an SPF of 15-30 is generally recommended. Please check with your pediatrician for details and recommendations.

Hats, long sleeves, strollers with protective sunshades should be the daily norm for our growing babies, toddlers, and children. Once again, take sunscreen with you to reapply during the day. This applies to “waterproof and “water resistant” products as well.

Stick on the Shades

A pair of sunglasses is more than a cool accessory: they’re the best way to protect your eyes from harmful rays. Sunglasses protect the very tender skin around our eyes and help to reduce the risk of developing cataracts.

Look for sunglasses that have UVA and UVB protection. Wraparound lenses offer added protection from UV rays that may sneak in at the sides.

Water, Water Everywhere

As always, drinking water (or other nonalcoholic fluids) is an important part in our daily health regimen, especially when it’s hot outside. Well-hydrated bodies have well-hydrated skin. Our bodies adjust to added heat by perspiration or sweating. If sweating, you are losing water that your body needs to work properly.

Drink up! Don’t wait until you’re thirsty. Offer children and elders drinks regularly. Drinking before you are really thirsty keeps the water level in your body from dropping too low (dehydration) when it’s hot or you’re involved in exercise. With all the cool looking water bottles around, fill up and drink away!

Call and Ask

Always contact your medical professional for questions regarding your health. Your health professional is the best one to address your individual questions and needs.

Our sun can be fun if you wear sunscreen, drink water, cover your eyes and head, wear protective clothing and take breaks. Here’s to our sunny, healthy days ahead!

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