Sun Safety: What to Do Before, During & After Sun Exposure

Sun Safety SunscreenThe American Cancer Society reports that skin cancer is the most common type of cancer and that more than 3.5 million cases of skin cancer are diagnosed yearly, more than all other cancer types combined.

Not only are most skin cancers preventable, the sun damages more than just the skin. Fortunately, many options exist for enjoying the sun and being protected from its harmful rays. Apply these tips to help you enjoy the sun, be safe from harmful UV rays, and recover from sun damage.

Before Sun Exposure

  • Avoid Sunburn – Sunburn and tanning are both just short-term effects of sun damage. Long-term effects include premature skin aging, loss of skin elasticity, dark patches, pre-cancer and cancer. Avoid sunburn and tanning whenever possible.
  • Apply Sunscreen - While sunscreen does provide protection from the sun, it does not provide 100% protection against UV rays. To get the full benefit of sunscreen, first read labels before buying to ensure choosing the best protection possible. Second, understand what the numbers on the bottle mean. Third, note the expiration date on the sunscreen and act accordingly. Finally, apply sunscreen liberally. Approximately a palmful provides adequate protection, and follow product directions for reapplication.
  • Check Medications - Many medications increase sun sensitivity and burning rate. A doctor or pharmacist can tell you if your medication makes you more susceptible to sun damage, but know that antibiotics and acne medications are common culprits.

During Sun Exposure

  • Wear Protective Clothing – Cover as much skin as possible, especially the longer you are in the sun. Some clothing now comes with sun protection factor, but any clothing you can’t see the sun through blocks at least some of the harmful rays. There are even products you can buy that are used in washing machines to add UV protection to clothing.
  • Wear a Hat - Hats with 2-3” brims all the way around provide sun protection to the head and neck. While most people wear either a baseball cap or a straw hat, keep their limitations in mind. A baseball cap, for instance, does not protect the neck and ears, and straw hats tend to have loose weaves that let sunlight through to skin.
  • Wear Sunglasses - Sunglasses that block UV rays not only protect eyes from sun damage, they also protect areas around the eyes. Ideal sunglasses should block 99-100% of UV rays. Dark sunglasses aren’t naturally better because the sun protection comes from an invisible coating applied to lenses, and large-framed and wrap-around sunglasses provide the most comprehensive protection. Finally, realize that a sunglasses price doesn’t predict its ability to protect eyes. In fact, a wide range of sunglasses in various prices and features all protect eyes from the sun. Simply make sure sunglasses are labeled as blocking 99-100% of UV rays.
  • Seek Shade - When the sun’s rays are at their strongest, no amount of sunscreen or clothing provides total protection against sun damage. At times, the best protection is seeking shade. Remember that when you can’t see your shadow, the sun is at its strongest.

Sunburn Care

Sometimes, even though we do our best to prevent sunburn something gets missed or forgotten. The result: painful sunburn. When this happens, take action to alleviate the discomfort and aid healing. Common methods include taking a cool bath, applying aloe vera gel, taking anti-inflammatory medication and applying moisturizing cream. If sunburn is severe enough for blisters to develop, see your doctor.

Taking the proper precautions goes a long way in preventing sunburn as well as its short and long-term effects. The post “Sun Safety: Special Considerations & Additional Thoughts” will bring this discussion of sun safety full circle by discussing some unique situations and elements that need considered in order to truly be safe in the sun.

Eye Injury Misconceptions

Edge Falcon Tactical Safety Glasses with Black Frame and G-15 Lens

Edge Falcon Tactical Safety Glasses with Black Frame and G-15 Lens

Eye injury is one of the most prevalent injuries in the workplace and on the sports field, but it is also the easiest to prevent. The following addresses three of the most common misconceptions related to eye injury as well as solutions to the issues they present.

  1. Safety glasses are not suitable for preventing all types of eye injuries. According to Achieve Safety, safety glasses are best for preventing injuries from particles or objects that come straight towards a person’s eye. In other words, a foreign object can still come in through the sides or perhaps come in under safety glasses and damage the eye.

Wearing the right type of protection for different eye hazards is essential in preventing them. For example, when performing tasks where a foreign object can get in through the sides or bottom of safety glasses, like when using a grinding wheel or rotating wire brushes, wear goggles or perhaps a full face shield plus goggles. The bottom line is to wear the correct gear for the task at hand, and one type of protection does not necessarily work for all circumstances.

  1. Wearing regular sunglasses or eyeglasses will not prevent sports injuries and often can make an injury worse. Eye2Brain says that fashion sunglasses and eyeglasses made for vision correction only do not protect against sports injuries because they are made from different material than protective athletic eyewear. In fact, fashion sunglasses and corrective eyeglasses often make an injury worse or even cause an injury when they shatter from a blunt force and the pieces go into the eye.

Choose the best athletic eyewear for your specific activity. A solution exists for every sport from fishing to baseball to running.

  1. While most people realize the damage the sun can do to skin, many still fail to realize how much the sun can also damage the eyes. In ‘Eye’ didn’t know that: 5 leading misconceptions about eye health, Lisa Rademakers addresses some of the leading misconceptions about eye health, including sun damage. The article states that there are a variety of eye conditions that can be caused by sun exposure, including cataracts and macular degeneration.

To protect eyes, wear sunglasses that protect against UVB and UVA rays. In addition, wearing an amber-colored lens can not only provide added protection but can also increase visibility by increasing contrast and decreasing glare.

While every person has unique needs with regard to protective eyewear, there is no shortage of eyewear to meet every person’s unique needs. From medical safety eye protection to sports eyewear to RX ready safety eyewear, an affordable solution exists to meet every unique situation.

Take the time to analyze your specific needs and where you feel you are most at-risk for eye injury. Then, take the time to find the best solution for avoiding one of the most preventable injuries that people sustain, injury to the eyes.

Indoor UV Protection

UV RaysDoes being indoors mean you’re protected against harmful UV rays from the sun? Yes and no. Consider the following facts about UVA and UVB rays generated by the sun.

  • UVB rays are the main cause of sunburn and are strongest in the summer.
  • UVA rays contribute to premature aging and wrinkles and are constant throughout the year
  • UVA rays account for 95% of UV radiation and are 30-50 times more prevalent than UVB rays.
  • UVB rays cannot pass through glass, while up to 50% of UVA rays can pass through glass.

Does this mean that protection from the sun by using sunscreen, sunglasses and protective closing is necessary? Again, the answer is yes and no.

The amount of UVA rays that pass through windows depends upon the type of glass as well as on the type of coating on the glass. For example, car windows have been proven to let in more than 60% of UVA rays from the sun. For buildings, recent advancements in window glass have provided a glass that reduces UV transmissions to 20%. Some types of glass can even protect against up to 99% of all UV light but are not common in residential or commercial structures.

Because the type of glass varies from one building and vehicle to another, protection from UVA rays while indoors varies tremendously for one individual to the next. The American Academy of Dermatology says that the amount of time a person spends in the car and/or working near windows can significantly impact the amount of UVA rays he/she receives.

While most Americans spend 80% of their days behind glass, individuals most susceptible to problems caused by UVA rays that make their way through glass include anyone working near windows as well as anyone driving or riding in a car for long periods of time. The more time spent in either situation, the more important to take protective measures.

For those with increased indoor exposure to UVA rays, expert recommendations include the following:

  1. Always wear a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher.
  2. Consider UV eye protection. Many options exist for every unique situation such as the 3M SmartLens Safety Glasses with Photochromic Lenses for those who need safety glasses.
  3. Use window shades or blinds during times when the sun’s rays are strongest.
  4. Arrange workspace so as not to always be working close to windows.
  5. When driving or riding in a car, wear protective clothing (long-sleeve shirt & pants) and wrap-around sunglasses, like the Bobster Defender Sungalsses, that protect against UVA and UVB rays.
  6. Add tinting to car windows, but make sure the auto facility can meet the federal mandate for tinting.

Many people believe that the type of lighting can also contribute to indoor UV exposure, but research shows lighting sources are not a significant factor in indoor UV exposure. In fact, anti-aging skin care based on independent research indicates that typical exposure to UV light from commonly used types of fluorescent lamps is relatively small” and “most UV light generated by common halogen lamps is blocked.” However, those same studies to recommend considering extra protection, such as those listed above, for those spending a lot of time under fluorescent or halogen lighting. Research Information provided by The National Electrical Manufacturers Association supports the findings of this independent research.

Bottom line: Even if you’re indoors most of the time, spending a lot of time in the sun coming through windows puts you at risk for UVA-related skin cancer as well as increased wrinkles and premature aging. If this is you, take measures to protect your eyes and skin just as if you were outside in direct sunlight for long periods of time.