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How to Be Safe When You're in the SunHow to Be Safe When You’re in the Sun

SADM #91 Jul/Ago 2020

Nicklaus Children’s Hospital

The weather is warming up, the days are longer and there’s more time to be outside doing all kinds of fun things!

But if you’re going to be out in the sun, especially on a hot day, you need to stay safe. Let’s find out how.

Don’t Feel the Burn

Even though the sun is hot, it does cool things. It keeps us warm. It makes flowers and plants grow. It even gives us vitamin D so we can better absorb calcium into our bodies for strong bones.

It does all these things by sending down light, which includes invisible ultraviolet (say: ul-trah-VYE-uh-lit) rays. These are also called UV rays. Some ultraviolet rays pass through air and clouds and reach the skin. When your skin’s been exposed to too many of these rays, you get what’s known as a sunburn. Ouch!

Some people get a sunburn faster than others because of their coloring. If you have blond or red hair, light-colored skin, and light-colored eyes, you’ll tend to get a sunburn more quickly than someone with dark eyes and skin. That’s because you have less melanin (say: MEL-uh-nun). Melanin is a chemical in the skin that protects it from sun damage by reflecting and absorbing UV rays. People with darker skin have more melanin, but even if you have dark hair, dark eyes, or darker-toned skin, you can still get a sunburn. It will just take a little bit longer.

Sunburns look bad and feel worse. They can cause blisters on your skin. They can keep you inside feeling sore when everyone else is outside having fun. They increase your chance of getting wrinkly when you get older. And worst of all, they can lead to skin cancer when you are an adult. Because getting wrinkles and getting sick don’t happen right away, they can seem like things that could never happen to you. But you still need to be careful.

Prime Time

You don’t need to hide from the sun completely. But you should take these two steps:

  1. Always wear sunscreen.
  2. Take breaks from the sun often by going indoors or moving into the shade.

These steps are especially important between 10 a.m. (in the morning) and 4 p.m. (in the afternoon), when the sun’s rays are strongest.

Use a sunscreen with an SPF rating of 30 or higher. Put on sunscreen 15 to 20 minutes before going out in the sun. The letters SPF stand for sun protection factor, and the number rating tells you how much longer you can stay in the sun without getting sunburned.

But this isn’t always true, so reapply sunscreen at least every 2 hours, just to be safe. Do this more often if you’ve been swimming or sweating a lot — even if the sunscreen is waterproof. And remember that you can get sunburned more quickly when you’re swimming or boating because the reflection from the water makes the sun’s rays stronger.

Be sure to put sunscreen all over your body. This includes some places you might not think of, like the tops of your ears, the back of your neck, the part in your hair, your face, and the tops of your feet. You may need some help reaching the back of your body so ask your parents or friends to give you a hand. If you want to block the sun’s rays, wear clothing that you can’t see your hand through. You may still get burned through more sheer fabrics. Wear a baseball cap or other fun hat to block your face from the sun.

Don’t forget that your eyes need protection from ultraviolet rays, too. Always wear sunglasses in the sun, and make sure they have a label saying that they block UV rays.

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