Community Health & Wellness

Wellness Wednesday | Tips for being sun-safe

Posted on July 9th, 2024 By: Scot Fleshman

July is UV Safety Awareness Month, but what do you need to know about UV safety to make informed and good decisions for yourself and your family?

UV basics

Let’s start with some ultraviolet (UV) basics. There are three types of UV rays: UVA, UVB, and UVC. These are forms of radiation and are classified according to their wavelengths. Only UVA and UVB rays reach the surface of the earth, while UVC gets absorbed by the ozone.

Both UVA and UVB can damage the eyes and skin through prolonged exposure, potentially leading to health issues that include cancer, eye damage and cataracts. Some exposure to these UV rays from sunlight can help produce vitamin D in your body; however, you can obtain vitamin D through other sources, like wise diet choices and supplements.

UV safety

Now that you know which UV rays can cause damage to your body, you need to know how to protect yourself and your family. It’s especially important to protect children from sunburns, since they can greatly increase the risk of developing skin cancer later in life. Follow these tips to practice UV safety this summer:

Wear sunscreen: Wear broad-spectrum sunscreen with a minimum of 30 SPF daily, even on cloudy days. Be sure to re-apply every 90 minutes or two hours, especially if you are participating in water activities or are sweating more than usual. Remember that babies under six months of age should not wear sunscreen, so the next tip is especially important for them.

UV protective clothing: No matter the SPF of your chosen sunscreen, no type completely blocks all UV rays. To combat that, wear SPF clothing, wide-brim hats and UV-blocking sunglasses. You can also find UV-blocking umbrellas when you’re spending time outdoors for an added layer of protection.

Avoid peak sunlight hours: UV rays usually peak between the hours of 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., so if you are outside during these hours, seek out shaded areas and be sure to apply the first two tips.

Don’t use tanning beds: Tanning beds are a high source of artificial UV exposure, which can cause premature aging and an increased risk of skin cancer later in life.

Continual care

Once you have taken steps to protect yourself and your loved ones from the potential dangers of UV exposure, you need to take one more step. 

Regular skin exams: You can monitor any changes in your skin yourself, but you can also book a wellness exam with your primary care provider if you have additional concerns or notice changes.

The Wellness Wednesday column is written by Scot Fleshman, an advanced registered nurse practitioner and board-certified family nurse practitioner. Fleshman and his wife, Jessica Hopkins, own Gig Harbor Primary Care.