We have mentioned previously the five basic sun defenses that you should keep in mind when you go outdoors:
- Avoiding peak hours of sunlight
- Using sunscreen
- Selecting appropriate clothing
- Keeping sunglasses handy
- Seeking shade
Having dealt with avoiding the sun, using sunscreen and clothing selection…today, we will discuss the last two defenses.
Overexposure to sunlight can cause cataracts and macular degeneration, a major cause of blindness. Sunglasses can provide effective sun protection for your eyes. However, not all sunglasses are of value. A darker lens itself does not guarantee protection. Look at the label to ensure that the glasses provide UV protection. Sunglasses should be large enough to shield your eyes from many angles. Look for sunglasses that are described as blocking 99% or 100% of UVA and UVB. The glasses may also be described as providing UV absorption up to 400 nm.
If possible, remain in the shade when outdoors. Keep in mind that shade does not provide full sun protection because UV rays can bounce off reflective surfaces, such as sand, snow, water, concrete, or even porch decks. In addition, some fabrics used as shade devices, such as parasols or umbrellas, may not provide sufficient sun protection. If you seek shade under a cloth, look for a fabric that is thick, tightly woven, and dark-colored.
Clear window glass provides protection from UVC and UVB, but not UVA rays.
If you are frequently exposed to sunlight while driving, the plastic interleaf of your windshield (which prevents it from shattering) can help block the light, but side windows have no such protection. Non-drivers can make use of additional window shade devices for sun protection. Drivers in some states may be able to use darkly-tinted glass in the side windows, but this is illegal in some states.
Sun Protection Summary
- Avoid the sun when its UV rays are strongest, between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
- Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF 30 or greater. Apply it 30 minutes prior to being exposed to the sun and reapply every two hours.
- Consider using a water-resistant sunscreen if you will be active (sweating) or in the water.
- Use a sunblock on your lips.
- Wear a broad-brimmed hat when outdoors.
- Wear sunglasses.
- Wear tightly woven, dark clothing to cover your arms, legs, and feet.
- Stay in the shade when possible.
- Avoid reflective surfaces, such as water or snow.
- Avoid sunbathing.
- Don’t be fooled by cloudy days since damaging rays can penetrate clouds.
Author: Jonathan S. Weiss, M.D.