Summertime Checklist: Sun Safety Tips for the Whole Family

by Teresa J. Mitchell

Summer SafetyYour area might already have had a preview of the hot, sunny summer days on the horizon. Some, like Ireland and the Pacific Northwest wonder when the rain will quit and the sun appear.

Whether you're already enjoying the summer weather or anxiously anticipating its arrival, these tips and suggestions will help keep the whole family safe in the sun.

Too Much Sun Linked to Skin Cancer

Summer means trips to the beach, play dates at the park and fast-paced games in the backyard. For many, summer also means exposure to the sun's harmful UV rays, a risk factor for various forms of skin cancer.

The CDC says that different types of cancer have been linked to certain types of sun exposure. Non-melanoma skin cancers are linked to chronic sun exposure. Those who work outdoors are most likely to get this type of cancer.

On and off exposure to the sun, like a person gets during recreation and vacation, has been linked to both non-melanoma and melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer.

Sun Safety Tips

✔ Stay Away From the Midday Sun

From 10 a.m. until 2 p.m., the sun's rays are most intense. Fortunately lunch and nap time fall during that period. You can stay outside and avoid harmful rays even during the middle of the day. Have a picnic under a big, cool tree and then set up a game or activity in the shade.

✔ Wear Protective Clothing

Chose a fabric that reflect the sun's rays or prevents them from reaching the skin. Check the label for information -- SPF tells the amount of protection the skin receives and UPF tells which rays the fabric blocks.

As a general rule, when you're shopping for protective clothing, put your hand underneath the material. If you can see your hand through it, put it back on the rack. If you can't see your hand, that garment offers protection against the sun. The more tightly woven the material, the fewer the UV rays can reach the skin.

✔ Slop on the Sunscreen

Lather on broad protection sunscreen, SPF of 15 or greater. Look for products containing zinc or titanium. Avoid those with "retinyl palmitate" or "retinol" on the label.

Put it on at least a half hour before going out in the sun and reapply every two hours or more frequently if you've been swimming or sweating. Get protection on lips, ears, feet and the back of neck, too. You should still use sunscreen on overcast and cloudy days.

✔ Accessorize!

A few final touches keeps those sensitive areas safe. Sunglasses protect the sensitive skin around your eyes. Add a wide-brim hat to your ensemble. Your nose, ears, face, neck and even your hair will thank you.

Since most sunscreens aren't meant for youngbabies, clothing, accessories and shade offer tiny tots the best summertime protection.

✔ Bring the Fun Indoors

When the sun beats down and you're feeling toasty or overheated, head indoors where air conditioning, fans and shade offer relief from the weather.

Set up an indoor picnic, a card table tent or a craft center right in your living room. Later, when the sun moves toward the horizon and the temperatures drop, lather on a new batch of sunscreen and head back outside.

✔ Skip the Tanning Bed

Tanning beds use the same rays to tan your skin as the sun does. The CDC reports that indoor tanning is especially dangerous for younger users. Indoor tanning before age 35 increases the risk for melanoma by 75 percent.

✔ Look for Skin Changes

Examine your own skin. Look for any non-healing sore or a bump of any color, a changing mole or a new mole that is irregular in shape or color. First look at areas exposed to the sun like your face, neck, ears and hands. Have a doctor look at any spots that concern you.

Enjoy your summer and be smart about skin protection! What do you do to protect you and yours?