Shedding Light on UV Safety

by Jennifer Davis
Health Promotion & Wellness Portfolio U.S. Army Public Health Command (Provisional)

The summer season is upon us, and that means more swimming pools, more beach time, more outdoor activities and best of all, more sunlight! While some exposure to sunlight can be enjoyable, too much can be dangerous. Sunlight contains ultraviolet rays that can be harmful to our skin, cause redness and sunburn and even cause skin cancer!

To ensure your summer is both fun-filled and sun-safe, consider adopting a few simple sun safety action steps endorsed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s SunWise School Program, a health education program that teaches children and parents how to protect themselves from overexposure to the sun.
Action Steps for Sun Safety:

• Do Not Burn: Sunburns significantly increase one’s risk of developing skin cancer, especially for children.

• Avoid Sun Tanning and Tanning Beds: UV light from tanning beds and the sun causes skin cancer and wrinkling.

• Generously Apply Sunscreen: Generously apply sunscreen—about one ounce to cover all exposed skin 20 minutes before going outside. Sunscreen should have a Sun Protection Factor, abbreviated “SPF,” of at least 15 and provide protection from both UV-A and UV-B rays. Reapply every two hours, even on cloudy days, and after swimming or sweating.

• Wear Protective Clothing: Wear protective clothing, such as a long-sleeved shirt, pants, a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses, when possible.

• Seek Shade: Seek shade when possible and remember that the sun’s UV rays are strongest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Use Extra Caution Near Water, Snow and Sand. They reflect the damaging rays of the sun, which can increase your chance of sunburn.

• Check the UV Index: The UV Index provides important information to help you plan your outdoor activities in ways that prevent sun overexposure. The UV Index forecast is issued daily by the National Weather Service and EPA. Visit to determine the UV index for a given day.

• Get vitamin D Safely: Get vitamin D safely through a diet that includes vitamin supplements and foods fortified with vitamin D. Don’t seek the sun.
Remember all sunlight is not bad! Small amounts of the UV contained in sunlight is essential for the production of vitamin D in people; however, overexposure may result in short- and long-term negative health effects. Adopting one or more of these action steps could help ensure that you and your family can enjoy the pool, the beach, and many other outdoor activities all season long! Happy summer!
For more information on protecting yourself from harmful UV rays: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency,
actionsteps.html and World Health Organization,