Sun safety

First Posted: 6/3/2009

I am just sitting down at my desk after a relaxing three-day weekend at the beach. From all accounts, I gather it was raining here, however, Oak Island was all sun, all day! As I consider myself fairly sun savvy, imagine my disappointment at getting a nasty sunburn.
I thought I was all armed and prepared. I bought 50 SPF sunscreen, wore a hat and sunglasses but neglected to remember one cardinal rule of sun safety: If one changes ones style of swimsuit, exposing parts of skin that have not seen the sun since the Reagan years, then one needs much more than 50 SPF protection!
Needless to say, I am pretty miserable today, however, misery can provide inspiration. Todays topic, boys and girls, is sun safety.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there will be 1 million new skin cancer diagnoses this year with 60,000 of them being malignant melanoma, the deadliest type of skin cancer.
While skin cancer is the most deadly result of over-exposure to the sun, there are plenty of other health-related illnesses such as heat exhaustion, heat stroke and sun poisoning.
With summer vacation upon us, lets look at some ways to enjoy being outdoors without suffering problems:
Hats on: Whenever you are outdoors in the sun, it is best to wear a hat. Sun damage to your skin can happen through your hair particularly where your hair parts. The best types of hats are those with large brims that keep the sun off of your face, neck and head.
Shades: Sunglasses dont just look good, they serve a purpose. Exposure to sunlight reflecting off of water can cause eye injury. Increased sun exposure also increases your chance of developing cataracts later in life. Make sure your shades are rated to protect you from both UBA and UBV rays.
Sunscreen savvy: We all know the higher a sunscreens SPF rating, the better protection. However, according to the FDA, there is a misconception that SPF relates to time of sun exposure. For example, some consumers believe that, if they normally get sunburn in one hour, then an SPF 15 sunscreen allows them to stay in the sun 15 hours, 15 times longer, without getting sunburn. This is not true because SPF is not directly related to time of solar exposure but to amount of solar exposure.
Time of day: The time of day in which you are in the sun makes all the difference. For example, 15 minutes in midday sun is equivalent to an hour of sun exposure at 9 a.m. That is why staying out of the sun between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. is safest.
Summer outdoor activities can be lots of fun if you take the proper precautions. Besides sun protection, make sure you stay hydrated with water or sports beverages, avoid caffeinated drinks and take frequent breaks. By following these simple steps, you can better enjoy your outdoor plans.

Kathy Hansen has more than 20 years experience in the health and fitness field. She can be reached via e-mail at [email protected]

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