I love summer! Summer is my favorite season of the year. I love playing sports outside and walking on the beach. I especially enjoy being at an outdoor barbecue. Maybe you enjoy summer activities as well. Imagine with me for a moment being at an outdoor barbecue. Just a little distance away from you there's a swimming pool full of kids who are having fun playing, laughing and splashing in the water. In another spot there might be a horseshoe game playing. You can hear the "clank" of the horseshoes hitting the posts as the players are trying to get a ringer. And of course there's the barbecue grill. On the grill might be hamburgers and hot dogs, chicken or steaks. The only thing better than the smell coming from the grill is the taste of the food when it's time to eat. Can you just imagine the fun that you will have this summer?
Now fast forward with me a few hours. You are at home and your skin is starting to itch. Just before bedtime you're taking your shirt or blouse off to get into your bed clothes and just the material rubbing up against your skin is painful. When you do go to bed that evening you toss and turn trying to get into a position that isn't painful so that you can go to sleep. However, you spend hours awake only thinking about the pain that your body is experiencing instead of the tremendous fun you had that day. What is the reason for this itching and pain? You have probably guessed it. You have a sunburn!
Fortunately you can do something about it before it happens. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has provided us with some steps that we can take to help reduce our chance of having to deal with sun damage. These seven simple action steps are as follows:
1. Limit Time in the Midday Sun - The sun's rays are strongest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Whenever possible, limit exposure to the sun during these hours.
2. Wear a Hat - A hat with a wide brim offers good sun protection to your eyes, ears, face, and the back of your neck - areas particularly prone to overexposure to the sun.
3. Cover Up - Wearing tightly woven, loose-fitting, and full-length clothing is a good way to protect your skin from the sun's UV rays.
4. Wear Sunglasses that Block 99-100% of UV Radiation -Sunglasses that provide 99-100% UVA and UVB protection will greatly reduce sun exposure that can lead to cataracts and other eye damage. Check the label when buying sunglasses.
5. Always Use Sunscreen - Apply a broad spectrum sunscreen with a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of at least 15 or higher liberally on exposed skin. Reapply every 2 hours, or after working, swimming, playing, or exercising outdoors. Even waterproof sunscreen can come off when you towel off, sweat, or spend extended periods of time in the water.
6. Avoid Sunlamps and Tanning Parlors - The light source from sunbeds and sunlamps damages the skin and unprotected eyes. It's a good idea to avoid artificial sources of UV light.
7. Watch for the UV Index - The UV Index provides important information to help you plan your outdoor activities in ways that prevent overexposure to the sun. Developed by the National Weather Service (NWS) and EPA, the UV Index is issued daily in selected cities across the United States.
Why am I telling you about these simple action steps that can help protect you from the sun? I want you to have fun this summer. I want you to have fun this summer under the sun.