Sun exposure

Enjoying too much sun exposure comes with its own set of consequences. The intensity of the sun's UV rays that reach the Earth's surface varies and should be considered when you plan being exposed to the sun while outdoors. Many countries create a UV Index, similar to the United State's National Weather Service's UV Index, which is a daily forecast of the UV intensity expected. This is usually available from your local weather stations, radio programs, web sites or newspapers.

The higher the UV Index forecast, the stronger the sun's rays will be and therefore the more urgent the need to follow all the sun protection prescriptions. Occasionally there are days when the UV Index spikes to an unexpected high for a particular geographic location, and so a UV Alert will be issued.

Some web sites allow you to sign up to receive a UV Alert or if you prefer, a daily UV Index forecast for specified areas. This may or may not appeal for your day by day activities but is usually helpful when holidaying or visiting a geographical area you are not too familiar with.

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UV Index table:

Predominantly, UV strength will be at its highest from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. when the sun's rays are the most direct, and especially during summer. Of interest is the fact that up to 80 percent of the UV rays pass through clouds, which accounts for sunburn on cloudy days!

Another aspect affecting UV strength is latitude and altitude. UV or sun exposure is greater at low latitudes, or nearer to the equator, and/or high altitudes. Being on water, snow or sand also increases sun exposure by the reflection of the UV rays. Thus water or snow skiers, yachtsmen or boaters, and anyone at the beach or in the desert, take extra precautions by wearing suitable sun protective clothing, hats and plenty sunscreen.

Some people, regardless of race or ethnicity, are more vulnerable than others when exposed to the harmful effects of the sun. Your skin type will affect the degree to which you burn as well as the time it takes for you to burn. There are many different 'measurements' for what skin type you may be but the following represents 6 skin types:

The same people who are more likely to burn with excess sun exposure are also most vulnerable to skin cancer. Studies have shown that individuals with large numbers of freckles and moles also have a higher risk of developing skin cancer. However, although those with skin types above 3 have a lower incidence of skin cancer, they should still take precautions for their skin and eyes from overexposure to the sun as there are many examples of skin cancer in people with darker skin that are not detected until the later stages when it is more dangerous.

Sun exposure sensitivities

There are some diseases, such as lupus, that create extra sensitivities to sun exposure. Also, some medications such as antibiotics or antihistamines, can initiate extra sensitivity to the sun's rays. Please discuss these issues with your doctor in terms of precautions.

Minimal sun exposure is really good for you as the skin will create Vitamin D, but if you are an avid sun bather or someone that spends a lot of time outdoors, the sun may end up being your worst enemy.

For those that go without sunscreen or sun block while out in the sun the risk of a sunburn is greatly increased. While many treat sunburn as a minor nuisance, the worse the sunburn, the more likely your chances of developing skin cancer are. There are non-cancerous forms of skin cancer but regardless of whether it is benign or malignant, it isn't worth taking a chance with your health. If you don't practice sun care habits now, your best bet is to start sooner than later. It is often easy to spot individuals that are suffering from too much sun exposure. Those that have spent too much time in the sun often sport an overly tanned complexion, along with deep set wrinkles on their face, and tough, roughly textured skin that looks almost leathery in appearance. These are definite signs of skin damage that occurred as a result of excessive sun exposure. When the skin gets to this degree of damage, it is very difficult to eliminate.

So, practice good suncare habits with sun-protective clothing and a hat, together with a quality sunscreen. The best clothing for sun protection is tightly woven, thick garments made of denim, wool or polyester, not cotton, linen or acetate. Dry material or clothes that have shrunk after washing are denser and better at blocking UV rays than wet, stretched or bleached clothing.

When outdoors, wear sunscreen and don't be mean in your application of it - the more liberal the application the better the effectiveness of it. So put plenty on! Zinc or titanium oxide sunscreens scatter UV light and yield fewer allergies, so in general are preferred for children or those with sensitive skins.

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