Protect Skin and Eyes When Outdoors

Posted: July 21, 2012

During this hot weather, it’s important to take precautions when outdoors...

The sun’s intensity is at its highest and can cause skin to burn if sunscreen isn’t used or reapplied.

     According to Mike Bradshaw, Kansas State University Research and Extension health and safety specialist, skin cancer affects more people in the United States than any other type of cancer.

     So it is important that people understand the risks associated with too much exposure to the sun and know how to protect themselves from the ultraviolet rays of the sun. While skin cancer is the most dangerous effect that the sun can have on the body, too much sun exposure can also cause eye problems, unsightly skin spots, wrinkles, “leathery” skin and less ability to fight disease.

     To protect the eyes and skin from the sun, Bradshaw recommends that people follow these safety steps:

     * Avoid the sun between 10:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. when sun rays are the hottest and most intense. If outdoors during this time, try to stay in the shade.

     * Apply a sunscreen with a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of 15 or higher 30 minutes before going outside and then reapply as directed by the manufacturer.

Sunscreens with an SPF greater than 15 won’t provide better protection, but will protect for a longer time, as long as the sunscreen remains on the skin. Sunscreen should not be used on children younger than six months of age.

     * Cover exposed areas of the body (including arms and legs) with lightweight clothing, and wear a wide-brimmed hat to protect the head, face, eyes, ears and neck.

     * Wear sunglasses with a 99 percent UV ray protection.

     * Eat more fruits and vegetables to reduce the risk of macular degeneration. According to the Mayo Clinic, macular degeneration occurs when tissue in the macula deteriorates and causes either blurred vision or a blind spot in the center of the visual field.

     * Avoid sunlamps and tanning beds that generate harmful UV light, which can cause cancer. Also, avoid tanning pills that contain a large amount of color additive that may be harmful. According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), tanning pills have not been approved. Self-tanning products such as sunless tanning lotions that work by dying the top layer of the skin are a safe alternative to tanning beds and the sun.

Karen Thomas is a family and consumer sciences educator for Penn State Cooperative Extension in Lackawanna County.