When you are out in the sun, wear clothing to protect as much skin as possible. Clothes provide different levels of protection, depending on many factors. Long-sleeved shirts, long pants or long skirts cover the most skin and are the most protective. Dark colors generally provide more protection than light colors The ideal sun-protective fabrics are lightweight, comfortable and protect against exposure even when wet. A few companies in the United States now make sun-protective clothing. They tend to be more tightly woven, and some have special coatings to help absorb UV rays. Some sun-protective clothes have a label listing the ultraviolet protection factor (UPF) value – the level of protection the garment provides from the sun’s UV rays (on a scale from 15 to 50+). The higher the UPF, the higher the protection from UV rays. Newer products are now available to increase the UPF value of clothes you already own. Used like laundry detergents, they add a layer of UV protection to your clothes without changing the color or texture.
A sunscreen is a product that you apply to your skin for some protection against the sun’s UV rays, although it does not provide total protection. Sunscreens are available in many forms – lotions, creams, ointments, gels, wipes and lip balms, among other products. Some cosmetics, such as lipsticks and foundations, also are considered sunscreen products if they contain sunscreen. Some makeup contains sunscreen, but only the label can tell you. Makeup, including lipstick, without sunscreen does not provide sun protection. Check the labels to find out. When selecting a sunscreen product, be sure to read the label before you buy. Experts recommend products with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15. The SPF number represents the level of protection against UVB rays provided by the sunscreen – a higher number means more protection.
Wearing a Hat
A hat with at least a 2- to 3-inch brim all around is ideal because it protects areas often exposed to the sun, such as the neck, ears, eyes, forehead, nose and scalp. A shade cap (which looks like a baseball cap with about 7 inches of fabric draping down the sides and back) also is good. These are often sold in sports and outdoor supply stores. A baseball cap can protect the front and top of the head but not the back of the neck or the ears, where skin cancers commonly develop. Straw hats are not recommended unless they are tightly woven.
Sunglasses that Block UV Rays
Research has shown that long hours in the sun without protecting your eyes increase your chances of developing eye disease. UV-blocking sunglasses can help protect your eyes from sun damage. The ideal sunglasses do not have to be expensive, but they should block 99 percent to100 percent of UVA and UVB radiation. Check the label to be sure they do. Some labels may say, “UV absorption up to 400 nm.” This is the same as 100 percent UV absorption. Also, labels that say “Meets ANSI UV Requirements” mean the glasses block at least 99 percent of UV rays. Darker glasses are not necessarily better because UV protection comes from an invisible chemical applied to the lenses, not from the color or darkness of the lenses. Look for an ANSI label.
Limit Direct Sun Exposure
Another way to limit exposure to UV light is to avoid being outdoors in sunlight too long. UV rays are most intense during the middle of the day, usually between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. If you are unsure about the sun’s intensity, take the shadow test: If your shadow is shorter than you, the sun’s rays are the strongest. UV rays reach the ground throughout the year, even on cloudy days. UV rays can also pass through water, so don’t think you’re safe if you’re in the water and feeling cool. Be especially careful on the beach and in the snow because sand and snow reflect sunlight, increasing the amount of UV radiation you receive.
In the summer, a combination of the heat and low relative humidity can rapidly lead to dehydration. You can lose up to two quarts of water per hour if you are perspiring heavily. As a general rule, and especially when physically active, you should drink plenty of fluids (water, fruit juice, lemonade, sports drinks) to keep properly hydrated. Even if you don’t feel thirsty, your body needs water all day long. Avoid alcoholic and caffeinated beverages (iced tea, soda) when physically active. Have a beverage with every meal and snack. Eat more fruits and vegetables. Fruits and vegetables tend to have a high water content, which makes them a great option for helping you meet your hydration needs. Don’t exclusively rely on thirst. Sometimes thirst is not a reliable measure of hydration because of medications or other health conditions. Keep a water bottle or beverage at your desk, in your car, in your bag or wherever you will be reminded to drink.