First Posted: 1/15/2009
I heard it through the grapevine that hanging out in the sun too long can cause your skin to shrivel. Actually, I already knew this bit of info, but County Extension Agents Susan Noble and Christy Strickland recently reminded me and about 40 much younger, less-wrinkled listeners about the importance of sun safety.
Noble, who donned a sleek black costume crafted from a Hefty cinch sack, made more than a fashion statement when she spoke to her audience.
“Look at me,” Noble said. “I used to be a plump and juicy grape, but I spent too much time in the sun and now I'm a shriveled and dry raisin.”
Strickland, who opted to leave her raisin costume clinging to the vine, also had her share of sun-smart advice to offer the attentive group.
Last week's Sun Smart series hosted by the County Extension agents disguised as California raisins was held in conjunction with the Robeson County Public Library's summer reading program called “Paws, Claws, Scales and Tales.” Noble and Strickland were careful to connect their lesson plans to the summer reading theme. They chose to travel with their young audience on a pretend trip to the zoo, where they learned about how the animals keep cool and protect their bodies from the sun's harmful rays.
While hippos have skin that produces natural oils that work as sunscreen, and elephants can dispense cool showers from their trunks, humans have only one option. We must simply use our sun sense.
Pay attention to the following sun-safety advice from the Centers for Disease Control and the American Cancer Society. These are all things we know to do, but often forget to do.
– Protection from sun exposure is important all year round, not just during the summer or at the beach. UV rays can cause skin damage during any season or temperature. Remember, UV rays reach you on cloudy and hazy days as well as bright and sunny days and they can also reflect off any surface like water, cement, sand and snow.
– When possible, avoid outdoor activities during midday, when the sun's rays are strongest. This usually means the hours between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
– You can also wear protective clothing, such as a wide-brimmed hat, long-sleeved shirt, and long pants.
– For the most protection, wear a hat with a brim all the way around that shades your face, ears, and the back of your neck.
– Always wear a broad-spectrum (protection against both UVA and UVB rays) sunscreen and lip screen with a least SPF 15 and reapply as indicated by the manufacturer's directions.
– Remember, your sunscreen has a shelf life of only one year. So don't use last year's leftover Banana Boat. Better toss it overboard and buy a new bottle!
– For eye protection, it's best to buy sunglasses that block both UVA and UVB protection. Wrap-around sunglasses work best because they block UV rays from sneaking in from the side. Sunglasses reduce the risk of cataracts and they also protect the tender skin around your eyes from sun exposure.
– One rule of thumb is to put your sunglasses on and look into the mirror. If you can see your eyes, you need darker sunglasses.
– Remember, a suntan is not an indicator of good health. In reality, tanning is the skin's response to injury because it appears after the sun's UV rays have killed some cells and damaged others.
– Examine your skin thoroughly and regularly using the American Cancer Society's ABCD system. Contact your doctor or dermatologist if moles of other pigmented areas of the skin show any or all of these danger signs:
A is for asymmetry, meaning one-half of a mole or pigmented area does not match the other.
B is for border irregularity, meaning the edges of are jagged, blurred, or notched.
C is for color, meaning the color varies from one area to another. This may include shades of tan and brown, black, or sometimes white, red, or blue.
D is for diameter, meaning any mole or suspicious lesion that is larger than a pencil eraser in diameter should be checked by a doctor.
For more sun-smart advice, call the Health Department at 671-3200.
– Melissa Packer is the Public Affairs Officer for the Robeson County Health Department. You may contact her at [email protected].