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Sun Safety

It’s that time of year – school’s out, La Ronde is open and the sun is shining! So let’s take a look at how to stay safe in the sun!

 Sure there are definite benefits to sunlight:

 – It can help with mood (for example people with seasonal affective disorder have improved mood when they are exposed to sunlight, which is why sunlamps are used for therapy during winter months)

– UVB is an important ingredient for the skin to be able to make Vitamin D (all you need is 15 minutes to a couple hours depending on skin tone and on the amount of skin exposed to make more than 10,000 units of vitamin D!)

– Some skin conditions can improve in sunlight (eg. eczema, psoriasis) which is why PUVA is a treatment sometimes used by dermatologists for people with really severe cases

But don’t forget the risks!

– Dehydration! Heat exhaustion! Heat stroke!

– Sun burn

– Skin damage: sunburns, wrinkles, skin cancer!

– More sun burn

– Damage to eyes leading to cataracts and cancers of the eye

– Even more sun burn

            Ever had a really bad sunburn? It can be excruciating, it can blister and you can even get a fever. It’s not worth missing a few days of summer to sit at home covering yourself in aloe vera. So here’s what you can do to protect yourself!

1) Stay informed!

 – Check out the UV index each day (for example the weather network broadcasts it daily). More than 3? Protect yourself!

2) Avoid the times of day when the suns’ rays are strongest

 – 10am until 2pm is peak sunburn time

3) Wear a hat!!!

– I don’t care if hats don’t suit you. Do it. The tip of your nose will thank you.

4) Wear sunscreen – and wear it properly!

 – Choose broad spectrum sunscreens that cover UVA and UVB rays. Use at least SPF 15, but better to aim for SPF 30. Don’t bother with anything higher than SPF 50, the increase in sun protection is negligible (in fact the FDA is making companies in the US market products as 50+ because the difference between 50, 60, 70 and up is almost zilch!)

 – Put it everywhere and apply liberally

 – Reapply every 2 hours, or more often if you are swimming or sweating

 – Don’t forget the tops of ears, the tops of feet, backs of hands, back of the legs! And double up on the nose!!

5) Wear protective clothing

 – I hated it as a kid but wearing a t-shirt over my bathing suit at the beach saved me from a lot of burns!

6) Check your medications with your pharmacist

 – Some medications (for examples some antibiotics, chemotherapies, diabetes medications, heart medications, diuretics, antidepressants, anti-inflammatories, antihistamines, birth control pills and topical creams) can increase your sensitivity to the sun.

7) Drink LOTS of water – heat exhaustion can sneak up on you. Be on the lookout for warning signs, especially when doing physical activity in the sun.

            – Signs of heat exhaustion are: weakness, fainting, muscle cramps, headache, nausea and vomiting, cool clammy skin and fever

            – It’s important to prevent heat exhaustion by staying cool and drinking lots of water because heat exhaustion can lead to heat stroke, which can be dangerous.

8) And don’t forget about your eyes!

 – Wear sunglasses whenever possible

 – Check that they protect against UVA and UVB rays

What about kids??

All the same advice holds true for kids – but you have to be even more careful. Kids’ skin is extra sensitive to the sun and they are more at risk for getting dehydration and heat stroke.

 Basically follow all the aforementioned rules but BE MORE STRICT with little ones!

And what about babies under 6 months? Well, really they shouldn’t be in the sun. But that’s a lot easier said than done! So keep baby as protected from the sun as possible, remember that babies can burn from reflected sun or even dappled sun. Dress baby in loose, cool clothes and a hat to cover as much skin as possible. And then if you can’t avoid having baby in the sun definitely put a little bit of SPF 30 on only the sun exposed areas (like the hands or feet or face).

For more information check out the following:

The Canadian Pediatric Society


Health Canada


Canadian Dermatology Association