UV Safety Awareness Month
Summer has kicked into full gear with the heat and humidity that we know well during our Michigan summers. This is exactly why July is UV safety awareness month. We all love being outside enjoying our yard, parks, trails, lakes and BBQs, but we need to remember a few safety precautions as we plan to spend more time outside.
UV exposure is the leading cause of skin cancer. Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the U.S. It’s important to remember that there is no safe level of UV exposure. Spring and summer are the strongest sun seasons, but UV rays are hitting us even through cloudy days in January. The strongest exposure times are between 10am and 4pm. Also, the higher the elevation you are, the more UV exposure you are subjected to on a daily basis. UV rays are reflected off water, sand, snow and pavement. Just one bad sunburn as a child is enough to set the course for problems even decades later.
So what can we do to protect ourselves and our children? We know that we should seek the shade, but that’s not always realistic. The catch phrase, “Slip! Slop! Slap! Wrap!” refers to slipping on a shirt and other protective clothing, slopping on sunscreen, slapping on a wide brimmed hat and wrapping sunglasses around your eyes. To test the protection of your clothing or a hat see if you can see light through it. If you can, UV rays are coming through your clothes or hat. Some clothes now show a rating for SPF or a UV blocking rating. You can also buy laundry products that will wash sunscreen into your fabrics. Sunscreens are not all created equal and experts from the American Cancer Society say we should wear sunscreen year round! Sunscreens lose their effectiveness after 2-3 years, so it’s a good idea to buy new sunscreen every year. Most people don’t use enough sunscreen, or don’t reapply sunscreen often enough. While no sunscreen can give you total protection, it is best to choose a broad spectrum sunscreen that protects against UVA and UVB rays. Choose a sunscreen that is at least an SPF of 15 or higher. Reapply after swimming or sweating, even if it is a “sport” style sunscreen. Experts say we should be reapplying sunscreen every 80-90 minutes and use about the size of a shot glass per adult. Don’t forget your lips! Many lip balms have SPF ratings. Wide brimmed hats should have a 2-3” brim to cover your ears, nose and neck, where skin cancers are very commonly found. Many hats are woven so UV rays will still come through the weave. Wearing sunscreen on sensitive areas in addition to the hats is a good idea. Make sure your sunglasses have a UV blocking rating of 99-100% to protect your eyes and the sensitive skin around your eyes.
Of course children need special attention while out in the sun. Making it part of your family routine is a great way to develop safe sun habits for a lifetime. Make sure you never use a tanning bed or sun lamp. The small lights in nail salons do UV light to dry nails. It is a much smaller exposure, but experts say that you should even stay away from these to be safe. So, what if you still want that summer tan? Try a sunless tanning lotion.
Finally, it is always a good idea to stay up to date with skin checks. Know when there are changes in your skin, the healing process and learn what to look for when you are at the doctor. Most doctors recommend having a skin check done every year in the office. As always, if you have any questions or concerns, contact your doctor.
Now that you’re prepared for UV safety, go outside and enjoy a Michigan summer!