Tips for staying safe in the sun

Contributing columnistJune 29, 2014 

Belinda Blair

It's inevitable that we associate summer with spending time in the sun. But too much sun can bring consequences. Especially during the summer season, it's wise to practice safety measures in order to protect ourselves from burns and skin cancer.

Sunlight, sun lamps and tanning beds are all producers of UV light, one of the biggest risk factors for skin cancer. According to the U.S. Food & Drug Administration, just one indoor UV tanning session increases users' chances of developing melanoma by 20 percent. Even more alarming, those who begin using tanning beds before age 35 increase their risk by almost 75 percent.

No one is immune from the dangers of unprotected sun exposure. If you have a light complexion, green or blue eyes, and blonde or red hair, you are at higher risk for skin cancer. However, dark-skinned individuals also are at risk.

Sunscreen can help protect you from dangerous UV light. For adults, use sunscreen with a SPF of at least 15 and apply it 30 minutes prior to sun exposure and every two hours thereafter. Remember to reapply more often if swimming or perspiring. Use an SPF 50 sunscreen for youngsters 6 months or older. Babies younger than 6 months should avoid sunlight.

Wearing a large-brimmed hat, preferably with an SPF of 50, can help protect your face and neck. Sunglasses also are recommended; inexpensive ones are fine as long as they provide 100 percent UV protection. Apply lip balm with an SPF of 15 to protect your lips.

Avoid direct sunlight during peak hours, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. If you must be outside during these times, take frequent shade breaks and drink six to eight (8 ounce) glasses of water a day.

Baptist Health Lexington's Sun Safety Program makes it enjoyable for children and adults to learn about the importance of sun safety. The hospital participates in Wet and Wild Wednesdays at Lexington-Fayette County pools during the summer. The free program provides equipment to test sunglasses for proper UV protection and to test the sun's UV index. Pool patrons also receive special UV bead bracelets that show when to apply sunscreen.

Please join us for upcoming Wet and Wild Wednesdays from noon to 4 p.m. July 9 at Castlewood, July 23 at Tates Creek and the Back to School Blast August 9 at Southland.

Enjoy the sunshine, but play it safe.

Belinda Blair, an oncology nurse navigator at Baptist Health Lexington, is one of the coordinators of the hospital's Sun Safety Program at local public pools.

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