There’s lots of summer left, but you don’t want to let your guard down on sun safety. The summer months are often a time to catch up on time outdoors, but you want to ensure you keep yourself as protected as possible from damaging UV rays.

While many people correctly associate sun safety with their skin and avoiding sunburns, there are also other protections you need to take from these invisible and damaging rays.

According to the American Cancer Society, UV radiation can come from many sources including the sun, inside lighting, and equipment like welding torches and tanning beds. UV rays are divided into UVA, UVB, and UVC and overexposure to any of them can be harmful.

Keep these protections in mind this summer and share UV safety tips with your patients, too.

Your Skin

UV rays, from natural or manmade sources, cause skin damage, no matter what the color of your skin is. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, with repeated and unprotected exposure UV radiation causes skin damage. That skin damage can lead to wrinkles (primarily from UVA) and dark or light pigmentation changes at best and skin cancer (generally from UVB) at worst. Natural UVC rays from the sun don’t usually reach the ground but are more of a threat from some equipment (welding torches and some sanitizing bulbs). Protecting yourself with sunscreen is an easy way to guard your skin from those harmful rays while still getting to enjoy time outside.

Your Eyes

Most people don’t associate eye problems with UV rays. According to the American Optometric Association, protecting your eyes from UV exposure from indoor and outdoor sources is essential. Over time, exposure can lead to problems like cataracts, eye cancer, or macular degeneration. Proper eye protection includes consistent use of sunglasses or eye gear that block all UV rays.

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Your Immune System

Many people associate sunlight with health and growth and will forgo sun protection thinking they are making themselves healthier. And while there are benefits to getting some sunlight, such as production of Vitamin D, UV overexposure can impact some people in a decidedly unhealthy way. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), too much UV exposure can actually suppress the immune system. If your immune system is suppressed at all, it makes  it harder for your body to fight off infections.

Stay Protected

Protecting yourself from UV exposure takes some vigilance but can become a habit over time. Wear sun protection in the form that works best for you. Whether you choose sunscreen, hats, sunglasses, or clothing with UV protection, guarding your skin and eyes from the sun’s rays outside is simple. If UV radiation exposure happens inside, take proper precautions with the right equipment. Avoid tanning beds and get regular skin checks by a dermatologist.

Be aware of any medication that could impact how your body reacts to UV exposure (some antibiotics, for example, increase your chances of sunburn). The EPA offers an easy-to-use UV Index that tells you the daily UV risk depending on your zip code.

Awareness about UV radiation is the first step to protecting yourself.

Julia Quinn-Szcesuil
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