Because we live in the rainforest of Southeast Alaska, we’ve learned that “Sun-days” are not just the day after Saturday, they occur anytime the sun shines! Getting out in the sunny weather to be active or just enjoy the light and warmth is important for our physical and mental health. We’re fortunate to enjoy the spectacular scenery that glows even brighter on sunny days.
Sunshine can cause health problems.
However, even in Southeast Alaska, too much sun can cause health problems. The ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun can increase your risk of skin cancer in as little as 15 minutes. UV rays go into skin and damage DNA in the skin cells. Damaged skin cell DNA can lead to skin cancer.
Fortunately, a few simple tips can help keep you and your family safe while you appreciate every bit of sun.
Tips to Stay Safe in the Sun:
Choose clothes to cover your skin. Long pants and long sleeves protect your legs, arms, and torso. Some fabrics are specifically woven to block more ultraviolet light, but any layer is better than no layer. Fabrics with tight weaves and dark colors block more ultraviolet light than looser or lighter ones.
Wear sunscreen on exposed skin to block UV rays. Choose a broad-spectrum (UVA and UVB) variety, with sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30. Make sure the expiration date on the sunscreen has not come and gone. Use generously and apply 30 minutes before you go outside and reapply every two hours or after getting wet.
Wear a hat. The top of your head needs protection, as do your ears and neck. Consider using hats with full, broad brims and neck flaps. As with other clothing, tighter weaves and darker colors block more ultraviolet light.
Spend time in the shade. Staying out of direct sunlight limits your exposure to ultraviolet rays. You can still enjoy a sunny day while sitting under a tree, under the roof of a porch, or under a boat canopy. Consider timing your outside activities for early morning or late afternoon, avoiding the hours with the brightest sunlight.
Wear sunglasses to protect your eyes from cataracts as well as sunburn around the eyes. Choose sunglasses that block both UVA and UVB rays, and aim for ones that wrap around the face to block the most light.
Public health officials in Australia developed an easy way to remember sun-safe habits: “Slip, Slop, Slap, Seek, Slide;” slip on a shirt, slop on sunscreen, slap on a hat, seek shade, and slide on sunglasses.
You have the power to take these simple steps to keep yourself and your family safe while enjoying the sunshine.