UV Index: What is it and how to stay safe in the sun

Weather

People enjoy hot summer day in a lake in Espoo, Finland, on June 26, 2020. In a year of untimely deaths from the coronavirus, economic decline and social loneliness, The World Happiness Report revealing the world’s happiest countries shows Friday March 19, 2021, Nordic countries topped the index, with Finland leading for the fourth consecutive year. (Heikki Saukkomaa/Lehtikuva via AP)

(WOWK) – According to the National Weather Service, the UV Index is a forecast of the amount of skin-damaging UV radiation expected to reach the earth’s surface at the time when the sun is highest in the sky (solar noon). The amount of UV radiation reaching the surface is primarily related to the elevation of the sun in the sky and the amount of clouds present.

The UV Index can range from 0 (when it is night time) to 15 or 16 (in the tropics at high elevations under clear skies). UV radiation is greatest when the sun is highest in the sky and rapidly decreases as the sun approaches the horizon.

The higher the UV Index, the greater the dose rate of skin damaging (and eye damaging) UV radiation. Consequently, the higher the UV Index, the smaller the time it takes before skin damage occurs .

Using sunscreen good for you and environment

The Climate Prediction Center says there are two prices to pay for overexposure to UV radiation: a severe sunburn following an intense short term overexposure, and skin cancers developing as a result of frequent burns or after long term overexposure.

Melanoma is the more deadly of the two types of skin cancer, and it occurs when the patient has been subjected to several intense short-term over-exposures. Non-melanoma skin cancers, which are almost 100% curable, will occur in people who are overexposed for very long periods of time, like construction workers, farmers, or fishermen. Long-term overexposure to UV radiation has been linked to the formation of cataracts in the eyes as well.

UV Safety: Stay Safe in the Sun

  • Do Not Burn or Tan: Avoid intentional tanning. It may contribute to skin cancer and premature aging of skin
  • Seek Shade: Get under cover when the sun’s rays are the strongest between 10 am and 4 pm
  • Wear Protective Clothing: Wear long-sleeved shirts and pants and a wide-brimmed hat as well as UV-blocking sunglasses
  • Generously Apply Sunscreen: Use a Broad Spectrum sunscreen with a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of 30 or higher for protection from ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) rays, which contribute to premature aging, sunburn and skin cancer. Always follow the label directions and apply sunscreen generously. Apply 15 minutes before going outdoors and reapply every two hours, or after swimming, sweating, or toweling off. Choose sunscreens without chemicals harmful to marine life.
  • Use Extra Caution Near Water and Sand: These surfaces reflect the damaging rays of the sun, which can increase your chance of sunburn
  • Check the UV Index Every Day: The higher the UV index, the more you should do to protect yourself from the sun. When planning outdoor activities, follow EPA’s safety recommendations
  • Get Vitamin D safely: While the skin needs sunlight to help manufacture vitamin D, which is important for normal bone health, overexposure to UV light can be detrimental by damaging and killing skin cells. The National Council on Skin Cancer Prevention recommends obtaining vitamin D through food and supplements, not through UV rays.
  • Protect Children from UV Rays: Children, the elderly and those with special needs may need special attention or be more sensitive to sun. Children tend to spend more time outdoors, can burn more easily, and may not be aware of the dangers of UV exposure. Parents and other caregivers should protect children from excess sun exposure by using the steps above. Babies younger than 6 months should be kept out of direct sunlight and protected from the sun using hats and protective clothing.

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