Sun safety basics
Most of us like to work, play, and relax outside on a sunny day. But too much sun and heat can be harmful, so be careful!
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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 equipment 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.
In extreme heat, some medications may increase your health risk and/or make your skin more sensitive to UV rays. Talk to your health care provider if you have any questions about your medication.
You can protect your family and still have fun under the sun.
- Cover up. When the UV Index is 3 or higher, protect your skin as much as possible. 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 3 p.m. The UV index in Canada can be 3 or higher during those times. 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 in to 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, even when it’s cloudy.
- Use sunscreen. Put sunscreen on when the UV index is 3 or higher. Use sunscreen labelled “broad spectrum” and “water resistant” with an SPF of at least 30.
- 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 equipment. There is no such thing as a ‘healthy’ tan. Using tanning equipment damages your skin and increases your risk of developing melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer.
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.
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