Protect Teens from UV Exposure
July is UV Awareness Month. With summer in full swing, it’s important to educate our teens about the dangers of sun exposure. Ultraviolet (or UV) ray exposure (from the sun OR from tanning salons) can cause:
- skin cancer (the most common type of cancer in the United States)
- eye cancer
- blotchy skin
Skin damage often starts during childhood, but does not appear until after the age of 50. In fact, having five or more sunburns anytime during your life doubles your risk of developing skin cancer. Even more alarming is that melanoma, an aggressive, potentially fatal type of skin cancer, has increased in young people — it is now the most common type of cancer diagnosed in young adults ages 25-29. Preventing sunburns is an important lesson to teach teens.
Tips to Protect Your Skin
Please share with your teen these simple, everyday steps to safeguard your skin, created by the Department of Health and Human Services:
- Wear proper clothing. Wear clothing that will protect your skin from harmful UV rays, such as long-sleeved shirts, pants, and a hat.
- Avoid the burn. Sunburns significantly increase one’s lifetime risk of developing skin cancer.
- Go for the shade. Stay out of the sun, if possible, between the peak burning hours of 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
- Use extra caution when near reflective surfaces. Water, snow, sand, and even the windows of a building can reflect the damaging rays of the sun and increase your chance of sunburn, even if you’re in, what you consider, a shady spot.
- Use extra caution when at higher altitudes. You can experience more UV exposure at higher altitudes because there is less atmosphere to absorb UV radiation.
- Apply broad-spectrum sunscreen. Generously apply broad-spectrum sunscreen to cover all exposed skin at least 20 minutes before going outside. The “broad spectrum” variety protects against overexposure to ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) rays. The FDA recommends using sunscreens that are not only broad spectrum, but that also have a sun protection factor (SPF) value of at least 15 for protection against sun-induced skin problems.
- Reapply sunscreen throughout the day. Even if a sunscreen is labeled as “water-resistant,” it must be reapplied throughout the day, especially after sweating or swimming. To be safe, apply sunscreen at a rate of one ounce every two hours, even on cloudy days.
- Protect your eyes, too. Wear a wide-brimmed hat that keeps your face and eyes shaded from the sun at most angles and wrap-around style sunglass that block 100% of UV rays.
- Monitor the UV index. You can check the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) UV index. This index measures the daily intensity of UV rays from the sun on a scale of 1 to 11. A low UV index requires minimal protection, whereas a high UV index requires maximum protection. Many weather apps also report the UV index.
- Do not use tanning beds. Tanning salons are not safe. The tans developed in tanning beds are from UV rays, just like the sun, and have all of the same dangers associated with sun exposure.
Tips to Treat Sunburn
Dermatologists recommend that teens prevent sunburns, but if they do get a sunburn, they should:
- Drink extra water to prevent dehydration.
- Take aspirin or ibuprofen to help reduce swelling, redness and discomfort.
- Do not pop the blisters, which help your skin heal and protect you from infection.
- Take frequent cool baths or showers.
- Use moisturizers frequently that contain aloe vera or soy.
Despite the risks of UV exposure, it can be hard to convince teens to avoid the sun, because they want to look tan. If that is the case, self-tanners and spray tans are both safe options.