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Tips for Ultraviolet (UV) Safety Awareness Month

For Ohioans (and just about everybody else in the country), the month of July has always been a time to soak up the sun, enjoy the long days, and bask in the heat before the autumnal breezes return. With the pandemic keeping many of us indoors last summer, this July has felt particularly special. But even if you’re vaccinated and keeping safe when it comes to Covid-19, it’s important to remember some of those other summer safety tips that might have slipped our minds in the interim. First and foremost is the need to keep yourself and your family safe from sun burns and more harmful long-term UV damage.

July is recognized as Ultraviolet (UV) Safety Awareness Month, and it’s something the team at Southeastern Med feels strongly about, as skin cancer cases are increasing in recent years, especially among women under 40. Skin cancer is usually not life threatening, but it can cause serious health issues, and it’s certainly best to do everything we can to help prevent it.

While July makes sense as a UV Awareness month, most of our sun protection tips are actually just as applicable during any time of year, and in most types of weather. As noted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, “UV rays can reach you on cloudy and cool days, and they reflect off of surfaces like water, cement, sand, and snow.”

One simple tip is to try and plan your fun in the sun outside the prime heat of the day (10am to 4pm), as UV rays won’t be as strong early in the morning or into the evening. Of course, it’s not always easy to organize our time that way, so this is where we turn to the many tools of the skin protection pros:

  1. Sunscreen: The CDC recommends a broad spectrum sunscreen that blocks both UVA and UVB rays, with an SPF of 15 or above. Don’t forget to re-apply if you’ve been swimming or sweating, or if 2 hours or more have gone by. Also, check the expiration on the sunscreen bottle. If you’re using the same one you bought on vacation 8 years ago, it’s probably not helping much.
  2. Body Coverage: While we understand the goal of getting that great tan, try to pace yourself and bring along a long-sleeve shirt, pants/skirt, and a full brimmed hat to provide an extra UV ray defense when you’re not in the pool or on the volleyball court. The CDC notes that clothes made from tightly woven fabric offer the best protection. A t-shirt that’s gotten wet offers far less than a dry one, and darker colors may offer more protection than lighter colors.
  3. Sunglasses: Most shades sold in America offer effective UVA and UVB protection, which not only provides a defense for the tender skin around the eyes, but can also reduce the risk of cataracts. The larger or more wrap-around the design, the better protection the sunglasses should offer.
  4. Shade: This one is somewhat obvious. While going into a shady spot or sitting under an umbrella doesn’t eliminate your exposure to UV rays, it does reduce it. And after baking in the heat for a while, it can feel like quite a relief anyway.

If you’ve noticed any freckles or marks on your skin that are changing shape or size, or that simply look irregular, make sure to see your physician and have them looked at as a precaution. For anyone who is diagnosed with skin cancer at some point in the future, please know that state-of-the-art, nationally accredited care is available close to home, as Southeastern Med’s John W. & Edna McManus Shepard Cancer Center guides patients through individualized treatments all the way through recovery.

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