Have Fun in the Sun – Safely
July in Central Illinois has always been a time for people to get out-of-doors to enjoy the summer weather. Activities with family and friends, gardening, picnics, swimming, or just enjoying a summer sunset make summer a special outdoor time. After the dark days of winter, just enjoying the summer sunshine is a special treat.
Once upon a time, a summer suntan was seen as a sign of good health. Billboard ads for a tanning lotion showed a puppy playfully tugging at the swim suit bottom of a little girl. Over-exposure to the sun was not seen as a long-term medical issue.
We know better now. Exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays is a known cause of most skin cancers. The most common types—basal cell and squamous cell cancers—tend to be found on parts of the body exposed to the sun, and their occurrence is typically related to lifetime sun exposure. The risk of melanoma, a more serious but less common type of skin cancer, is also related to exposure to the sun’s UV rays.
UV Index – A Measure of UV Exposure
The strength of UV rays varies throughout the day, increasing from dawn until noon—when the sun is directly overhead—then decreasing until sunset. The UV Index, developed by the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Weather Service, measures UV strength based on the amount of UV exposure at noon. It ranges from 1-2 (Low) to 11+ (Extreme) and can vary on a given day depending on the weather and atmospheric conditions.
In July, the average UV Index for Central Illinois is 7 (High). At this level, the amount of sun exposure before sunburn starts depends on a person’s tendency to sunburn:
|Tendency to Burn||Exposure Before Burn|
Reduce the Risks of UV Exposure
Some straightforward options for increasing protection from UV exposure come from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Do not stop with one; act on as many as apply to your situation.
- Avoid direct sun.
The hours between 10:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m., when the UV Index is at its highest, are the most critical.
- Use sunscreen.
Apply a broad spectrum sunscreen, which protects against both kinds of UV rays, to all your skin surfaces that will be exposed, even on cloudy or cool days. Make sure it is at least SPF 30; higher is better. Apply sunscreen at least 15 minutes before sun exposure; it needs time to be absorbed. Be sure to reapply it after two hours and immediately after swimming, sweating and toweling off.
- Stay in the shade.
Cool off in the shade, especially during midday hours. Shade can come from an umbrella, a tree or some other shelter.
- Wear clothing that covers your arms and legs.
Long-sleeved shirt and pants provide the best protection, but at least wear a tee shirt or beach cover-up. Tee shirts provide less screen than SPF sunscreen so also apply sunscreen.
- Wear a sun hat.
The ideal sun hat is one with a brim that goes all the way around and provides shade for your face, ears and back of neck; tightly woven is better. If your ears and the back of your neck aren’t shaded by the hat, apply sunscreen.
- Wear sunglasses.
They protect your eyes from UV rays and also reduce the risk of cataracts. Wrap-around sunglasses are best.
- Check the UV Index before going out.
When the Index is high, take extra precautions. The Peoria Journal Star lists the daily forecast UV Index on its Weather page, near the top. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration provides a daily national map at tinyurl.com/uv-noaa.
Get Out and Enjoy Summer
With the right precautions there is no reason not to enjoy the summer weather. You can make the most of the brief summer months and still take care of your health. Get out and explore the many attractions and activities that Peoria and the surrounding area have to offer.
In addition to driving and escorting their clients to medical appointments, shopping, etc. most home care agencies are very happy to escort their clients to entertaining and informative events as well. Perhaps it’s an often-discussed but put off trip to the Peoria Zoo, the Luthy Botanical Garden or the Peoria RiverFront. Whatever it is, the warm weather will be gone all too soon; take advantage of it while it lasts – and be sure to do it safely.
- Does UV Radiation Cause Cancer?, American Cancer Society, www.cancer.org
- A Guide to the UV Index, U. S. Environmental Protection Agency, tinyurl.com/uvindex-epa.
- What Can I Do to Reduce My Risk of Skin Cancer?, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, tinyurl.com/cdc-options
- Skin Damage Time Range, Weather Underground, tinyurl.com/chart-burn