Getting a little sunshine in our day can boost our mood and provide vitamin D. But most of us get much more sun exposure than we need. Unfortunately, that may mean increasing our risk of developing skin cancer, cataracts, sunburn and signs of premature aging.
And some of us have other reasons to stay out of the sun and need to take extra precautions. For example:
- Babies less than one year old should be kept out of the sun. Ask your pediatrician for more information.
- Children under 18 should limit UV exposure because it increases their risk of skin cancer later in life.
- If you take medications, be aware that some drugs and herbal treatments can increase your sensitivity to the sun. Check with your doctor or pharmacist when you begin taking any new medication to find out if you need to take extra precautions.
- Anyone who has had an organ transplant needs to be especially vigilant about managing sun exposure and its potential effects.
It's a matter of protection
Along with applying a broad-spectrum sunscreen, consider the following sun-smart steps:
- Pay attention to the clock. The sun is strongest between the hours of 11 a.m. and 4 p.m.
- Use weather reports wisely. The UV index is a good number to know because the higher the UV rating, the stronger the sun's rays.
- Look for tightly woven clothing that's loose and lightweight for added sun protection and to stay cool and comfortable in hot weather.
- Take special care to cover your head and neck — wear a wide-brimmed hat.
- Wear sunglasses that offer good coverage and 100% UVA and UVB protection.
- Think year-round protection. Being sun smart isn't just for summer months. Protect yourself even in the spring, fall and winter when the sun's UV rays can relfect off the snow and water.
- Pass on tanning beds. Rather than being a "safe" way to tan, they actually bombard you with up to five times more UV radiation than you would get from sitting beneath the midday summer sun.
It's also a good idea to check your entire skin regularly — including your back, back of neck and legs and ears — for early warning signs of skin cancer, including:
- A change in a birthmark or mole
- New growths on your skin
- A patch that bleeds, itches, oozes or becomes swollen, red or bumpy
- A sore that won't heal
As with other health concerns, speak to your healthcare provider for more information.
Here are ways to get more information and tips on ideas expressed in this article:
- Slideshow: Hot summer, cool sweat
- Looking for ways to enjoy the great outdoors? Game: Find great activities your entire family can enjoy
- "D" passes the test
This article may contain information related to nutrition, exercise and fitness and/or general information provided by select health care professionals. This information is provided for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment or advice provided by a qualified professional. Speak to your healthcare professional before making any changes to your lifestyle or beginning or discontinuing any course of treatment.