Most people understand that extended exposure to the sun’s rays can be damaging to the skin and eyes, and that safety precautions are in order during summer months. Unfortunately, many people fail to realize that the sun can be equally dangerous in the winter months, particularly when the ground is covered with a reflective layer of bright snow or ice. This winter, whether you’re heading south in search of warmer weather, or just spending time outdoors in the cold, keep the following sun safety tips in mind, courtesy of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA):
Dress with care
Wear clothes that protect your body. Cover as much of your body as possible if you plan to be outside on a sunny day. Wear a wide-brimmed hat, long sleeves and long pants. Sun-protective clothing is now available in stores. However, such products are not regulated by FDA. Consider using an umbrella for shade.
Be serious about sunscreen
Check product labels to make sure you get
- a “sun protection factor”; (SPF) of 15 or more—SPF represents the degree to which a sunscreen can protect the skin from sunburn. The higher the number, the better the protection.
- ‘broad spectrum’ protection—sunscreen that protects against UVA and UVB.
- water resistance—sunscreen that stays on your skin longer, even if it gets wet. “Water-resistant” does not mean ‘waterproof.’ Water-resistant sunscreens need to be reapplied as instructed on the label.
Tips for applying sunscreen
- Apply the recommended amount evenly to all uncovered skin, especially your lips, nose, ears, neck, hands, and feet.
- Check the label for the correct amount of time to apply it before you go out.
- If the label doesn’t give a time, allow about 15 to 30 minutes.
- If you don’t have much hair, apply sunscreen to the top of your head, or wear a hat.
- Reapply often. Read the label to see how often.
- Give babies and children extra care in the sun. Ask a doctor before applying sunscreen to children under 6 months old.
- Apply sunscreen to children older than 6 months every time they go out.
Don’t forget the eyes
Sunlight reflecting off snow, sand or water further increases exposure to UV radiation, increasing your risk of developing eye problems such as cataracts.
Long hours on the beach or in the snow without adequate eye protection also can result in a short-term condition known as photokeratitis, or reversible sunburn of the cornea. This painful condition–also known as ‘snow blindness’—can cause temporary loss of vision.
- When buying sunglasses, look for a label that specifically offers 99-100% UV protection. This assures that the glasses block both forms of UV radiation.
- Eyewear should be labeled ‘sunglasses.’ Be wary of dark or tinted eyewear sold as fashion accessories that may provide little or no protection from UV or visible light.
- Don’t assume that you get more UV protection with pricier sunglasses or glasses with a darker tint.
- Be sure that your sunglasses don’t distort colors and affect the recognition of traffic signals.
- Ask an eye care professional to test your sunglasses if you’re not sure of their level of UV protection.
- People who wear contact lenses that offer UV protection should still wear sunglasses.
- Consider that light can still enter from the sides of sunglasses. Those that wrap all the way around the temples can help.
- Children should wear real sunglasses—not toy sunglasses—that indicate the UV protection level. Polycarbonate lenses are the most shatter-resistant.
Previously on the DC Metro Area Personal Injury Law Blog, we have posted articles related to:
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