UV Safety Month

July is UV Safety Month, and it’s time to be aware of the sun’s good. As we enjoy the beautiful summertime weather, we need to keep in mind several issues about the effects of the sun’s ultraviolet radiation. We need sunshine. It helps with our body’s production of Vitamin D and has been tied to issues of depression in some people who don’t get enough. However, overexposure to the sun can lead to a variety of health risks. You may be surprised about some of the specific dangers of sun exposure and how you can protect yourself.

When out and about on a steaming hot day, be sure to avoid getting severely sunburned. Sunburns can significantly increase your chance of skin cancer — particularly among children or people with pale or sensitive skin. In order to prevent sunburn, wear sunscreen, proper clothes, hats, and sunglasses, and always aim for the shade during the sun’s peak hours between 10am and 4pm. The sun’s damaging effects can also be compounded by reflective surfaces like sand, water, snow, and even windows — so be careful to avoid these things. The Food and Drug Administration also suggests using broad-spectrum sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) value of 15 or more.

There are two main types of UV light, UVA and UVB. UVB is what gives you your sunburn and is responsible for some types of skin cancers. UVA rays are the ones that can make the skin leathery and wrinkly in appearance and these also can contribute to certain skin cancers. (An easy way to remember: “A” is for aging and “B” is for burning). Both types are harmful to you in different ways. Over time, doctors have developed a list called the ABCDE’s in order to help people identify any abnormal signs of melanoma. Be aware that a mole or part of your skin may change color or shape, and this might be a sign of cancer. To help you determine whether a mole is a warning sign, keep the ABCDE’s in mind: A- Asymmetry: One side looks different than the other. B- Border changes: An irregular and uneven border. C- Color changes: Having a variety of different colors. D- Diameter: It’s bigger than a pencil eraser. E- Evolving: Any change in size, shape, color, or elevation.

UV light can be harmful to the skin as many of us know who have been badly sunburned. However, it can also be very bad for our eyes. Eye structures such as the cornea, retina, and lens are damaged from UV radiation, so protecting your eyes is vital. When planning your outdoor activities, you can decide how much sun protection you need by checking the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) UV index. This index measures the daily intensity of UV rays from the sun on a scale of 1 to 11. A low UV index requires minimal protection, whereas a high UV index requires maximum protection. By taking the proper precautions and following this advice you and your loved ones can enjoy the sun. If you are having any problems after being in the sun, be sure to talk to your healthcare provider. Enjoy the outdoors this summer and remember to protect your eyes and the skin you’re in!

Celeste Botonakis

On the Nursing Assistant Guides blog, certified medical assistant Celeste Botonakis explores the daily life of a CMA. She'll keep you up-to-date with the latest on what’s happening in the field, and provides tips for those who are interested in becoming a medical or nursing assistant. Celeste has served in the medical field for over six years, and is passionate about helping people. She currently works at CSR Primary Care in Skokie, Illinois. Click here to learn more about Celeste Botonakis and NursingAssistantGuides.com.