Sun safety for summer fun
By Lisa Lakey
For the Cooperative Extension Service
U of A System Division of Agriculture
- A single sunburn can double the risk of skin cancer
- Use sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher
- A wide-brim hat and sunglasses are important during long periods of exposure
LITTLE ROCK — With summer now in full swing, the lakes and parks are filled with boaters, swimmers, hikers and those just out enjoying the warmth of the summer sun. However, those warm rays can bring more than a season’s summer glow.
Lisa Washburn, assistant professor of health at the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture, said protecting the skin from sun damage is key in the summer.
“Skin cancer is the biggest long-term risk from sun exposure,” Washburn said. “One blistering sunburn in childhood more than doubles the risk of developing skin cancer later in life.”
Washburn said that while most sun damage occurs from day-to-day sun exposure, people tend to get much of their lifetime sun exposure before age 18. Regardless of age, everyone should apply sunscreen before going outdoors, she said.
How much sunscreen to use?
“Many people take the right step by using sunscreen, but most people who use sunscreen do not use enough,” she said. “Use about one ounce of sunscreen, and reapply at least every two hours – more often if swimming or sweating. It’s important for any child older than 6 months to use sunscreen. Children under 6 months of age should be kept out of the sun.”
It can often be overwhelming when gazing down the sunscreen aisle, amid the varying brands and strengths. To make it simple, Washburn recommended a SPF 30 or higher and advised reading the manufacturer’s label for usage instructions.
In addition to a painful sunburn, too much sun exposure can cause premature aging and damage to the eyes. These effects can be prevented with a little forethought and the proper accessories.
“Try to seek shade when the sun’s rays are strongest, usually from 10 a.m. until around 4 p.m.,” Washburn said. “Plan ahead for outdoor activities and take an umbrella if shade is not available. If it’s not too hot to be comfortable, wear long sleeves and pants. Always wear a wide-brim hat and protective eyewear.”
Most importantly, don’t wait for the red to appear before preventing sun exposure. Staying safe in the sun ensures fun throughout the rest of the day.
“It can be hard to catch a sunburn in progress,” Washburn said. “Kids may look fine while playing in the sun, then develop a sunburn later in the day after sun exposure. Parents should use their judgment, seek shade whenever possible and make sure kids are wearing protective eyewear and a hat. Most importantly, make sure kids are protected by sunscreen. This means using enough sunscreen and reapplying as recommended.”
For more information about health, visit www.uaex.edu or contact your county extension office.
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Media Contact: Mary Hightower
Dir. of Communication Services
U of A Division of Agriculture
Cooperative Extension Service