The summertime sun can brighten vacations, but it also can bring two unwanted problems: sunburn and heatstroke. Take care outdoors this summer season—keep your skin and body healthy by staying hydrated, cool, and covered.
Damaging UV rays do not need to cause sunburn to hurt your skin—they can cause damage in only 15 minutes. It does not even have to be a sunny day for you to be exposed to UV rays. Follow these suggestions for UV protection:
- Use sunscreen with a sun protective factor (SPF) of 15 or greater and both UVA and UVB protection.
- Cover exposed skin with clothing. Dry, loose-fitting long pants and long-sleeve shirts provide the best protection. If wearing a T-shirt or cover-up, be sure to still use sunscreen.
- Wear a hat. Hats with brims that cover your face, ears, and the back of your neck and with no holes will help to protect your face and scalp.
- Don't forget your eyes. Wear sunglasses to reduce the risk of cataracts and protect the sensitive skin around your eyes. Choose sunglasses that block UVA and UVB rays.
The hours between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. have the greatest risk for UV exposure. Keep track of UV forecasts for your area and consider staying in the shade in midday hours.
All of the suggestions above are especially appropriate for children. Keep them well covered with sunglasses, hats, and clothing, and use plenty of sunscreen to protect exposed skin. Keep sunscreen handy since extracurricular and outdoor activities can often last longer than expected. Most importantly, provide a good model for sun safety.
Babies need special care in the sun. They cannot tell you if it is too hot or bright, and they cannot move out of the sunlight.
- Keep babies younger than a year old out of the sun. Place them in shade under trees, umbrellas, or stroller canopies.
- Dress them in lightweight clothing that covers their bodies, including hats.
- If you cannot find shade or put them in appropriate clothing, you can apply a little sunscreen to small areas, such as the face and back of the hands.
Sunscreens are effective barriers to protect exposed skin from UV rays. Their ingredients can differ, however, so if your skin has a bad reaction to one product, try another or call a doctor.
Use sunscreens that are SPF 15 or higher and have not passed their expiration date. Apply 30 minutes before going outside, and reapply every two hours and after swimming or heavy sweating.
Some cosmetics now use some sunscreen compounds. If a product does not have at least SPF 15, also apply a regular sunscreen.
Anyone can become overheated if the conditions are right—even a native Floridian. Overheating can quickly develop into heat stress and heat-related illness if you do not pay attention to your body’s needs.
- Reduce your outdoor activities in midday hours. Consider rescheduling for cooler times of the day.
- Wear lightweight, light-colored clothing, which reflects heat.
- Wear sunscreen. Sunburn makes it harder for you to cool off.
- Drink water, even if you do not feel thirsty. Your body needs water to cool off.
- Eat light meals that will not ramp up your metabolism and body heat.
- Avoid alcohol—it dehydrates you.
- Stay in air-conditioned spaces. Go to the movie theater, do your walking exercises in a mall, or read in a public library, for example.
Be aware of your body in the heat and watch for heavy sweating, confusion, dizziness, weakness, and nausea—all symptoms of heat exhaustion.
Anyone whose body temperature becomes elevated; skin becomes hot and dry; has continued nausea or vomiting; and/or loses consciousness may be suffering from heat stroke or severe heat illness and needs medical attention.
Hydration, sunscreen, and proper precaution will keep you, your body, and your skin happy, healthy, and cool even during the hot months of summer.
Adapted and excerpted from:
“Beat the Heat,” UF/IFAS Extension (rev. 6/2011).
S. Smith, “Protecting Babies from the Sun,” Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences (rev. 3/2012).
“Sun and Heat Protection,” UF/IFAS Center for Landscape Conservation and Ecology (rev. 6/2011).
“Skin Cancer: Prevention,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (rev. 11/2011).