Take precautions in the sunshine

Features column

Well, it's official. Summer is here and it's time for fun in the sun and good times with family and friends. Here in South Georgia we are, by necessity, used to the heat and humidity, but we have also learned to take special precautions to keep safe and healthy during the hot summer months. I thought I would give everyone a quick rundown on how to stay healthy outside this summer.

The hours of 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. are the hottest of the day and tend to have the highest UVA and UVB exposure. For this reason, it is important to time some activities, such as outdoor festivities and exercise, to early morning or evening hours. If you are out during the middle of the day, take precautions like drinking 2-4 cups of water hourly, wearing sunscreen, and wearing protective eyewear and clothing to cut skin exposure to the burning rays of the sun. The EPA Sunwise program stresses that there are more than 1 million skin cancers reported each year and sun exposure is one of the leading causes of melanomas and other skin cancers, cataracts and weakened immune systems.

I learned a lot from the EPA website about the difference between UVA and UVB radiation. UVA rays penetrate deeper into the skin and are the leading causes of skin cancers and premature aging. UVB rays mainly affect the skin surface, causing sunburns and blisters.

They caution that UVB rays are a greater danger because of the thinning of the ozone layers and that many people believe that you can't get sunburned on cloudy days. This is untrue due to the UVB rays ability to pierce through most cloud cover. UV radiation has also been attributed to the development of cataracts, so remember the UV-protective sunglasses and head protection. Damage over the years is cumulative and can lead to skin cancers and cataracts later in life.

Those teenage sun-worshipping sessions or fishing trip sunburns can come back and haunt you later in life.

Remember to take special precautions with children's sun exposure during the summer months. Be sure to apply and reapply sunscreen every two hours and more often if swimming. Sunscreen is usually formulated to combat both types of UV radiation. A SPF, or sun protection factor, of at least 15 is advised.

Please remember that a SPF 30 does not give double the exposure time of a SPF 15. A SPF15 product provides a 93 percent protection from UVB rays and a SPF30 and above provides at least a 97 percent protection. Sunscreens usually are related to their UVB protection factors, but many are now broad-spectrum products that have formulas to protect against both UVB and UVA radiation. Broad spectrum products are recommended. For more information on the Sunwise program, go to the website at epa.gov/sunwise.

So, I send you forth, to go and enjoy your summer. Find a shade tree and sit a while with a cold drink and try not to think of the colder months coming soon.

For more information, contact me at the UGA/Dougherty County Cooperative Extension Office at 125 Pine Ave. at (229) 436-7216 or email at suzanwmsuga.edu.

Suzanne Williams is the FACS agent at Dougherty County Cooperative Extension. She can be reached at (229) 436-7216 or suzanwmsuga.edu.