Fun (and safety!) in the Sun


Sun Protection

by Megan Heroux , AHS

Although we’ve seen a bit of rain this July, it’s finally summer! It’s time to get out and enjoy the great outdoors. In Southern Alberta we are so fortunate to be near so many outdoor attractions.

From Writing-On-Stone to Waterton to Cypress Hills… I can’t help but daydream about all the fun I have planned this summer. During your summer adventures, be sure to keep safety at the forefront of your mind. Sun safety, in particular, is of great importance during these hot months. Here are some things to remember when protecting you and your family from the sun’s warm rays.

From early spring to early fall, it’s important to plan ahead when you head out for outdoor family fun.  You can start by checking Environment Canada for the day’s “Ultra-violet (UV) index.”  This number measures the intensity of the sun’s rays – rays that can cause sun burns and other long-term damage. Even with a low UV index (1-2) you should be thinking about sun protection if you are outside for more than 1 hour. The UV index goes all the way up to “extreme” which is 11 +. Today, as I write this article, it’s a dreary day here in Southern Alberta with clouds and periodic rain.  Despite the clouds, the UV today is still 5 which poses a “moderate” risk. Just goes to show you how tricky that sun can really be!

According to the Canadian Dermatology Association, when you head out this summer you should be looking for a broad spectrum sunscreen with a minimum sun-protective factor (SPF) of 30. This needs to be re-applied at least every two hours and after swimming or excessive sweating.  Don’t forget about your lips! You should look for SPF 30 lip balm and keep your lips protected as well. Other steps you should take to be sun safe this summer include: limit sun exposure between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m., wear a wide-brimmed hat, wear eye protection and choose clothing that covers exposed skin and is tightly woven or labeled as UV- protective.

An easy way to remember these key sun safety practices is to remember the “ABCs of Sun Safety.”

A= Away– keep away from the sun or find shade between the hours of 11 a.m. and 4 p.m

B= Block– use a broad spectrum sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher

C= Cover Up– Use clothing, a wide brim hat and sun glasses to protect yourself

As with many safety practices, it comes down to thinking ahead.  Don’t find yourself out and about without sun protection this summer- plan to implement the ABCs of sun safety and have a safe and fun summer!

Megan Heroux is a health promotion facilitator at Lethbridge Community Health Services and can be reached at [email protected].


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