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Published on Thursday, May 25, 2023

Sun safe tips from Public Health

By Sarah Milne,

Health Promoter, Grey Bruce Health Unit

 

Summer officially begins on June 21.

The days are now longer and nights are warmer.

We have emerged from our winter slumber and endured the spring freeze/thaw of rain and snow. This newfound warmth brings us outside and soon begins the wonderful, carefree summer months. As we emerge like butterflies from cocoons, snapping turtles from their nest of eggs, we too face again the dangers that come with moving around in our natural world.

We intrepidly begin our exploration of Mother Nature and soon discover that we have long missed these sun-filled days. We quickly feel the positive effects of the sun, including its warmth, natural light and our body’s synthesis of Vitamin D. The sunlight also helps to enhance our moods and kills pathogens.

Despite these advantages, overexposure to sun and UV radiation can have adverse health effects. These include premature aging, skin cancers, diseases of the eye, and immune suppression.

In 2014, there were an estimated 39,400 cases of skin cancer in Ontario, making it the most common type of cancer. To reduce your risk, check the UV Index daily and follow the recommendations for UVR and Sun protection.

Here are other ways to stay sun safe this summer:

  • Check the UV Index daily. If the index is 3 or higher, protect your skin. In Canada, this is necessary mostly from April to September from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m., even when it is cloudy.
  • The UVR that is harmful to our eyes is in the sun’s rays throughout the year. Wear sunglasses with UV-protective lenses especially when you are around snow, sand or water.  Try to get glasses that are tight-fitting and are labelled “UV400” or “100% UV protection.”
  • Seek shade when possible.
  • Wear a wide-brimmed hat and clothing that covers as much skin as possible. Be especially conscious of the tops of your shoulders and the tops of your feet as these areas are often highly exposed to the sun. Clothing generally provides better protection from the sun than sunscreen, especially if the fabric is tightly woven or is UV-protective.
  • Use a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 and has a label that says both “broad spectrum” and “water-resistant.”  Apply it generously to areas that are not covered by your clothing and re-apply it periodically. It is estimated that the average adult should need about two to three tablespoons to cover their bodies, and about two to three teaspoons just on the face and neck. Lip balm with sunscreen is also recommended.
  • Never use UV tanning equipment or deliberately try to get a tan. Always avoid getting a sun burn.
  • A number of drugs, medicines and ointments can make you much more susceptible to sunburn and skin damage from UV radiation. These include some antibiotics, drugs for high blood pressure and heart conditions. There are many others. Ask your doctor about any medications prescribed to you. If you’re taking medicine which makes you more susceptible to UV radiation, take extra care to protect yourself.
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