Fun in the Sun: Healthy Tips for National UV Safety Month

What’s better than getting outdoors and enjoying some sun? Whether you’re a hiker, a beachgoer, or are enjoying your kid’s ball game, we all find ways to soak up the sun. While there are many benefits to being outdoors, such as increased vitamin D production, there are also some safety issues. For instance, the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays can be extremely harmful—especially to your skin. Too much UV exposure without protection is one of the biggest risk factors for skin cancer. With more than four million cases of skin cancer diagnosed annually in the U.S. alone, taking steps to prevent it is crucial.

Since July is National UV Safety Month now is the perfect time to brush up on some sun safety tips.

What is Ultraviolet Light?

It’s impossible to see UV light with your naked eye. This makes it easy to forget about when you’re having fun at the beach or grilling in the backyard. UV light is part of each ray of sunshine that you enjoy during the summer. It is also a type of radiation. The two primary types of UV radiation are UVA and UVB. Both can damage your skin. However, many UVB rays are absorbed in the Earth’s atmosphere. This means most of the UV rays you encounter are the UVA type. These rays can penetrate through the outer layer of your skin (the epidermis) and into the living tissue layer (the dermis). There, they can cause damage at a cellular level, which is one reason why UV light is a risk factor for skin cancer. While most of the UV radiation we are exposed to comes from sunlight, it’s important to remember that other sources exist. For instance, tanning beds are another major source of UV radiation exposure.

Certain lights can also emit UV rays, but typically not enough to cause harm.

Dangers of UV Light

Regardless of how you spend time in the sun, UV radiation poses a risk to your health and the health of your loved ones. Skin cancer is the most extreme example. However, that isn’t the only danger of UV light. Sunburn might seem like a minor problem that we all deal with. Yet, it is the result of UV radiation damaging your skin. The Melanoma Research Foundation says, “Just one blistering sunburn during childhood can double the chances of developing melanoma later in life.” Your eyes are also vulnerable to damage from UV light.

Prolonged UV exposure can lead to conditions like cataracts and macular degeneration. Believe it or not, your eyes can even get sunburnt. When this occurs, it’s known as photokeratitis. It is quite painful and is accompanied by symptoms like blurry vision, swelling, and a gritty sensation in your eyes.

How to Protect Yourself from UV Light

While UV radiation is all around during sun-filled summer activities, there are ways to protect yourself. Of course, the best prevention is to limit your exposure to UV light whenever possible. This means keeping your time outdoors reasonable and taking protective measures when you’re in the sun for long periods.

Some of the best ways to protect yourself from UV light include:

  • An effective sunscreen (at least SPF 15 that protects against UVA and UVB rays)
  • Long-sleeve clothing and a hat
  • Finding shade when outdoors in peak sunlight (10 am-4 pm)
  • Wear sunglasses or a hat to protect your eyes from direct sunlight
  • Avoiding tanning beds

How to Screen Yourself for Skin Cancer

Everyone should be vigilant about detecting skin cancer. It is easily treatable in most cases if caught early. However, outcomes become much worse if skin cancer isn’t detected.

For those who spend lots of time in the sun, screening yourself for skin cancer is even more important.

To assess your skin (and specifically moles) for potential areas of skin cancer, remember the ABCDEs.

  • (A)symmetry: Look for moles that have one side which looks different than the other
  • (B)order: Dangerous moles may have a jagged or irregular border
  • (C)olor: Moles should all be one color. If there are multiple colors, it may be dangerous
  • (D)iameter: Moles should be less than six millimeters wide, about the size of a pencil eraser
  • (E)volving: Moles with a high risk of being cancerous tend to change or grow over time

Velocity Urgent Care is Here for You All Summer

If enjoying your time in the sun doesn’t go as planned, Velocity Urgent Care is here to help. Whether you’re dealing with a bad sunburn, are concerned about an odd-looking mole, or are feeling dehydrated, we’re ready to help. Our centers are also equipped to treat conditions like heat exhaustion and other summertime injuries like insect bites, sprains, and strains. At Velocity Urgent Care, we offer a full range of services, including lab work and physicals. During your visit, you can discuss any health concerns you have with your doctor and get answers and advice. If you need more specific care or testing, we can also refer you to a specialist in the Sentara Healthcare network. We offer convenient online registration that helps you limit your contact with others during your visit. You can sign up for an appointment online to skip the waiting room and arrive when it’s your turn to be seen. Velocity Urgent Care even offers text message updates so you can wait in the car (if you prefer) until it’s time for your appointment.

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, we are taking serious safety precautions to ensure that our locations are as clean as possible. We’ve put strict sterilization protocols into place and are carefully handling patients who may be contagious to ensure that each one of our clinics is safe for those who need urgent medical care or occupational health services.

Velocity Urgent Care is an in-network provider for most major insurance plans, meaning you can be seen for the cost of your co-pay and deductible.

All our locations also accept Medicare, Medicaid, and Tricare. Veterans Administration beneficiaries are also welcome.

To learn more about our services, locations, hours, and more, visit www.velocityuc.com.