Iowa Specialty Hospital

Fun In The Sun Doesn't Have To Mean A Sunburn

July 17, 2023

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July is UV Safety Month, which is the perfect time to learn about avoiding the harmful effects of ultraviolet, or UV, radiation from the sun.

Enjoying time outdoors and exercising are important to maintaining good health.  Summer means "fun in the sun" for many people in many different ways, and knowing how to protect your skin will allow you do so safely.

Sunburns, (inflamed, painful skin that feels hot to the touch), usually appear within a few hours after too much exposure to UV light from sunshine or artificial sources such as sunlamps.  Any exposed part of your body, including your scalp, lips, and earlobes, can burn.  Even covered areas of your skin can burn if your clothing has a loose weave that allows UV light through. Your eyes can also burn as they are extremely sensitive to the sun's UV light.

Sunburn signs and symptoms usually appear within a few hours after too much sun exposure, but it may take a day or more to know just how sever the sunburn is.  (If the damage is severe, medical attention may be required.)

How can you protect yourself from UV radiation damage?

  • Time of day: Avoid sun exposure during the middle of the day (between 10am and 4pm) when the sun's UV rays are the strongest.  Be mindful that clouds offer little protection, and UV rays can reflect off surfaces such as water, sand, snow or pavement, leading to increased UV exposure.
  • Sunscreen: It's best to use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF, or sun protection factor, of at least 30 - even on cloudy days. Apply the sunscreen generously and reapply every two hours, or more often if you're swimming or sweating. Use a generous amount on all exposed skin, including the tips of your ears and the backs of your hands and neck. Be sure to check the expiration date on your sunscreen, especially if it was purchased last year. And don't forget about your lips!  Use a sunscreen lip balm with at least an SPF of 30 as well.
  • Sunglasses: UV radiation can also burn your eyes. Sunburned eyes can feel gritty or painful, and too much UV light can damage the retina, lens, and cornea.  Sun damage to the lens can lead to clouding of the lens, or cataracts. Exposure to harmful UV light can also increase your risk of ocular melanoma.  A sunburn of the cornea is also called "snow blindness".  Too protect your eyes, look for sunglasses that block both types of UV radiation - UVA and UVB rays. 
  • Protective clothing: Sunscreen doesn't provide complete protection from UV rays.  You should also protect your skin with dark, tightly-woven clothing that covers your arms and legs whenever possible.  For extra protection for your head, face, and neck, a broad-brimmed hat provides more protection than a baseball cap or visor. Some companies also sell photoprotective clothing with UV protection factor, or UPF, ratings similar to the SPF rating of sunscreens.

Sun safety is important for the whole family. By protecting yourself and the ones you love from the sun's harmful rays, you can all enjoy fun in the sun this Summer!




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