Protect yourself from the sun’s harmful rays

Memorial Day weekend traditionally kicks off the summer season for most Idaho families. We’ll be spending lots of time in the sun (we hope), and many of us won’t protect ourselves from its damaging rays. So I’m here to tell you that Friday is Don’t Fry Day, and it’s a good time to make a promise to yourself to be more responsible in the sun. Sunburns add up. Every time you get a sunburn, your risk for skin cancer increases.

If you’re outside for less than an hour, is it really necessary to take precautions?  

The sun’s ultraviolet rays can damage skin – especially fair skin — in as little as 15 minutes, but it can take up to 12 hours for the full effect of sun exposure to show up. Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States, with melanoma being the deadliest form. Idahoans have a higher rate of melanoma than the national average and the highest death rate in the nation.

Who is most at risk?

Those with fair skin or hair, freckles, and blue eyes are at the highest risk for developing skin cancer, but everyone who spends time outside will be affected by UVA and UVB rays. Be sure to make sun safety part of your daily routine. Early detection is vital in treating skin cancers, so check your skin regularly and see a doctor if you find anything you’re not sure about.

How can we keep from getting sunburned?

The best way to avoid getting sunburned is to decrease your risk. The sun’s rays are the strongest between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., so try to be in the shade when you can, cover up with clothing, and wear a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses. Sunscreen is a must for any exposed skin, but you can also wear lightweight clothing that has been treated to block the sun’s harmful rays

What are the guidelines for using sunscreen?

Sunscreen should have a minimum SPF of 30, which blocks 97 percent of the suns’ rays, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. Higher SPFs block slightly more, but no sunscreen totally blocks the harmful effects. Apply a water-resistant sunscreen 15 to 30 minutes before going outside. It’s important to reapply it after about two hours, after swimming, or any activity that makes you sweat.

What’s the best treatment for a sunburn?

The American Academy of Dermatology recommends getting out of the sun immediately and then using cool baths to reduce heat, moisturizer to help with the dryness, hydrocortisone cream, and aspirin or ibuprofen to help with discomfort and reduce swelling. Drinking lots of water will also help prevent dehydration.

Any other safety tips for the long holiday weekend?

We have a pretty thorough list of tips on our blog, dhwblog.com, to help you pack and prepare for the long weekend. It includes tips for preventing mosquito bites and West Nile, how to prevent and remove ticks if you find one, food safety reminders, and how to be safe in the water. Check it out!

(Note: A Closer Look At Your Health airs at 6:50a.m. most Tuesdays on KBOI News Radio 670. This is an edited transcript of the segment from May 23. Join us next week for tips on swimming safety!)

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