UV Safety: How to Protect Your Skin from Harmful UV Rays
UV safety and sunburn prevention are always hot topics, especially during the summer as more people head outdoors to soak up the sun.
As fellow Floridians, the physician-led team of healthcare professionals at MD Now wants you to enjoy the sun – and also wants to help you do it safely. So, let’s take a closer look at the importance of UV safety and sunburn prevention, the risks of ultraviolet radiation, and how to protect your skin from harmful UV rays.
After providing high-quality healthcare in Florida for over 15 years, MD Now urgent care clinics have treated thousands of patients with excessive sun exposure, sunburns, and dehydration. When UV rays take their toll, MD Now is here to provide you with prompt treatment and relief.
The Nature of UV Radiation
It’s hard to escape UV rays, especially in Florida. The greatest source of UV radiation is the sun, along with artificial sources like tanning beds. Certain types of lighting also emit UV rays, such as mercury vapor (often found in stadiums and school gymnasiums), halogen, and fluorescent lighting.
There are three primary types of UV radiation: ultraviolet A (UVA), ultraviolet B (UVB), and ultraviolet C (UVC). Almost all UV radiation that reaches our skin is UVA, although we are exposed to some UVB radiation as well, especially on sunny days. Both UVA and UVB radiation can affect your health, but UVA penetrates deeper into your skin.
The Risks of Ultraviolet Radiation
Anyone can get sunburned, which is the result of short-term overexposure to UV rays. However, the risks of ultraviolet radiation are highest for people who:
- Have light skin, hair, and/or eyes
- Have a family member with skin cancer
- Spend a lot of time in the sun or have sunburned previously
- Are over age 50
Sunburns are only the start. Over time, prolonged UV exposure can cause premature aging, potentially blinding eye diseases (especially if you do not wear sunglasses), and serious health issues like skin cancer. You can help protect your skin from long-term damage by following the UV safety and sunburn prevention tips below.
Sunburn Prevention Strategies
Stay in the shade
The American Cancer Society confirms that staying in the shade is one of the best ways to limit UV exposure. The sun’s rays are strongest between 10 AM and 4 PM. When in doubt, check your shadow – if it’s shorter than you are, spend time in the shade to give your skin a break.
Remember that sand and water reflect sunlight, increasing the amount of UV radiation present. UV rays can also reach below the water’s surface, causing you to burn even when fully submerged. Therefore, you will probably need extra shade time to prevent sunburn at the beach or pool.
Wear protective clothing
The idea of covering up in hot, humid Florida weather may not sound ideal, but your skin will thank you. Long-sleeved shirts, long pants, or long skirts are the most protective, as are dark colors. If you can see light through your clothes, UV rays can get through as well.
Thankfully, many companies now make lightweight, comfortable clothing that helps protect against UV rays – even when wet. Some clothing also lists the UPF (UV protection factor), which typically ranges from 15-50+. The higher the UPF, the higher the protection.
Wear the right hat
To protect the areas that are most exposed to the sun (such as your face, forehead, and scalp), a hat with at least a 2-3” brim all the way around is ideal. A brim that is made of a dark, non-reflective material helps lower the amount of UV rays from reflective surfaces like sand and water as well.
Some hats have fabric draping down the sides and/or back to provide extra protection for your neck, or you can make one by wearing a bandanna or large handkerchief under a baseball cap. Baseball caps do not provide ample protection for your neck or ears on their own. Straw hats are also less protective than hats made of tightly-woven fabric.
Apply sunscreen properly
It goes without saying that wearing sunscreen protects your skin from UV rays and helps prevent sunburn at the beach, pool, or anywhere you spend time outdoors. However, it’s important to apply sunscreen properly.
Start by applying it generously, paying close attention to any areas not covered by clothing. If you wear makeup or insect repellent, put the sunscreen on first. Ideally, about an ounce of sunscreen (a palmful) should cover the face, neck, arms, and legs of an average adult.
Don’t stop there! Sunscreen needs to be reapplied at least every two hours to maintain UV protection – and more often if you sweat or swim. This rule applies to even the highest levels of SPF (we recommend using a broad-spectrum sunscreen with a minimum of 30 SPF or higher).
Sometimes, the sun wins the war. Here are some things you can do at home to treat sunburned skin and ease your discomfort:
- Keep your skin cool and moist – Using a cold compress or taking a cool bath with baking soda can help. Apply aloe vera lotion, moisturizing cream, or over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream to your skin several times a day.
- Avoid products that contain benzocaine or alcohol – These ingredients can dry out and irritate your skin even further.
- Leave blisters and peeling skin alone – If blisters form on your skin, do not break them. Doing so slows the healing process and increases your risk of infection. If your skin begins to peel, continue to use moisturizing cream and let the skin shed on its own.
- Take over-the-counter pain relievers if needed – Sunburns often hurt. Acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil) can help relieve your pain.
- Drink more water – As your skin heals, drinking extra water helps prevent dehydration.
Suffering from a sunburn? MD Now can provide you with an expert evaluation and the right treatment for symptomatic relief so you can get back to enjoying your summer.
While at-home remedies often work for mild cases of sun exposure, watch for symptoms like headaches, nausea, dizziness, or disorientation. You should also seek treatment at MD Now if your sunburn covers a large portion of your body with blisters or you experience a high fever or severe pain.
Walk into any of our state-of-the-art clinics today to consult with our licensed and certified healthcare professionals. All patients are typically seen and treated in less than an hour, with no appointment necessary.
Live a Sun-Safe Lifestyle
Adopting healthy sun habits is important not just during the summer, but all year long. By incorporating sunburn prevention tips into your daily routine and making your skin health a priority, you can safely enjoy all the sun-filled activities that Florida has to offer.
About MD Now® Urgent Care
MD Now urgent care is Florida’s largest urgent care operator with more than 85 state-of-the-art clinics conveniently located across Broward, Duval, Hillsborough, Indian River, Lake, Lee, Manatee, Martin, Miami-Dade, Orange, Palm Beach, Pinellas, Saint Lucie, Sarasota, and Seminole Counties. MD Now urgent care’s physician-led team of healthcare professionals provides high-quality healthcare through a comprehensive lineup of urgent care, preventative healthcare, and occupational health services during convenient hours. MD Now urgent care is proud to be affiliated with HCA Florida Healthcare. For more information, visit www.MDNOW.com.