Sun safety basics

Most of us like to work, play, and relax outside on a sunny day. The warm rays of the sun can feel good on our skin. But too much sun and heat can be harmful, so be careful!

The sun's burning rays are also called ultraviolet radiation or UV rays. UV rays can cause:

Before you head outdoors, follow these sun safety tips.

Sun safety tips

You can protect your family and still have fun under the sun.

  • Cover up. Wear light-coloured, long-sleeved shirts, pants, and a wide-brimmed hat made from breathable fabric. When you buy sunglasses, make sure they provide protection against both UVA and UVB rays.
  • Limit your time in the sun. Keep out of the sun and heat between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. When your shadow is shorter than you, the sun is very strong. Look for places with lots of shade, like a park with big trees, partial roofs, awnings, umbrellas or gazebo tents. Always take an umbrella to the beach.
  • Use the UV Index forecast. Tune into local radio and TV stations or check online for the UV index forecast in your area. When the UV index is 3 or higher, wear protective clothing, sunglasses and sunscreen.
  • Use sunscreen. Put sunscreen on when the UV index is 3 or more.
  • Drink plenty of cool liquids (especially water) before you feel thirsty. If sunny days are also hot and humid, stay cool and hydrated to avoid heat illness. Dehydration (not having enough fluids in your body) is dangerous, and thirst is not a good indicator of dehydration.
  • Avoid using tanning beds. If you do use them, understand the risks and learn how to protect yourself.

Did you know?

Even animals practice sun protection! Chimpanzees avoid the midday sun and hippos secrete pink-coloured oil that acts like a sunscreen to protect their skin from sunburn.

Sunscreen safety tips

  • Choose a high SPF. Protect your health by using a broad-spectrum sunscreen with a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of at least 15. The sunscreen should also say "broad-spectrum" on the label, to screen out most of the UVA and UVB rays.
  • Look for "water resistant." Look for claims on the label that the product stays on better in water (water resistant, very water resistant).
  • Read application instructions. For best results, be sure to follow the instructions on the product label.
  • Use lots of sunscreen. Use the recommended amount of sunscreen.
  • Apply it early. Apply sunscreen 20 minutes before you go outside; reapply 20 minutes after going outside and at least every 2 hours after that. Use a generous amount. Cover exposed areas generously, including ears, nose, the tops of feet and backs of knees.
  • Reapply often. Reapply sunscreen often to get the best possible protection especially if you are swimming or sweating heavily.
  • Protect yourself. Sunscreen and insect repellents can be used safely together. Apply the sunscreen first, then the insect repellent.
  • Sunscreens and babies. Do not put sunscreen on babies less than 6 months of age. Keep them out of the sun and heat as their skin and bodies are much more sensitive than an adult's.
  • Test for an allergic reaction. Before using any tanning product on you or your child check for an allergic reaction, especially if you have sensitive skin. Apply it to a small patch of skin on the inner forearm for several days in a row. If the skin turns red or otherwise reacts, change products.

Did you know?

Sunscreens are not meant to increase the amount of time you spend in the sun. They are meant to increase your protection when you have to be outside.

Remember

  • It is important to protect against UV rays all year round, not just in the summer.
  • Reflections off snow, water, sand and concrete can increase the effect of UV rays. You need to protect yourself on cloudy days, when you're swimming, and even while skiing.
  • Children learn best by example. Model sun-protective behavior yourself.
  • In extreme heat, some medications may increase your health risk and/or make your skin more sensitive to UV rays. If you are taking medication, ask your health care provider if it increases your risk, and follow their recommendations.
  • Tanning beds and lamps will damage your skin and should be avoided.
  • Sunless tanning products like bronzers are an alternative to tanning and come in different forms (sprays, lotions, towelettes). But while these products may give your skin a golden color, they do not offer any UV protection. You still need to practice sun safety when using these products.
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