Mon, Jan. 20

We live in Arizona; sun can be your worst enemy

It gets hot in Arizona. Temperatures rise to over 100 degrees during the summer. We all know the routine: pay attention to excessive heat warnings.

Hydrate, hydrate and hydrate when temperatures rises. Avoid drinks with alcohol or caffeine to reduce the effects heat has on your body.

Avoid strenuous activity on hot days and limit activities to the coolest part of the day.

But, there are also other considerations, as well.

With more than 300 sunny day annually, practicing good sun safety is important at any age. But, the Arizona Department of Health Services says sun safety is critically important for children since much of a person's lifetime exposure to the sun occurs before age 18.

Be sure to practice skin protection while outdoors especially when the UV rates are the highest in the middle of the day.

Here are things you may not remember:

Use sunscreen every day. Even on cloudy days, the sun's rays can damage your skin. Wear sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher. Apply 15 minutes before going outside and reapply every 2 ½ hours or sooner if perspiring or engaging in water activities. Wearing sunscreen every day is as important as brushing your teeth!

Wear a hat and lip balm. A hat with a wide brim offers good protection for your scalp, ears, face and the back of your neck. The bigger the brim, the better the protection. Protect lips with SPF 15+ balm.

Wear sunglasses: Sunglasses reduce sun exposure that can damage your eyes and lead to cataracts. Check the label and choose sunglasses that block at least 90 percent of UVA and UVB rays.

Cover up: Wear long sleeves and pants if possible to protect your skin when playing or working outdoors. Darker colors and fabric with a tight weave provide the most protection.

Limit time in the midday sun: Limit your outdoor activities when the UV rays are the strongest and most damaging (10 a.m. to 4 p.m.).

Seek shade: Find something fun that doesn't involve the direct sun. Look for shade under a tree, a ramada or find an indoor activity inside a gym, library or classroom during peak UV.

Check the daily UV index: Did you know you can check the intensity of the sun's rays every day? The ultraviolet or UV index is a way of measuring the sun's radiation level. The scale is from 1 to 10. The higher the UV, the more careful you should be. A day with a UV rating of 10 requires more protection than a day with a rating of 1.

Avoid sun lamps and tanning booths. These artificial sources of UV light can cause as much damage as the sun's UV rays. Remember, there is no such thing as a safe tan. To get a tan, skin damage has to occur!

The truth is, tanning beds injure thousands of people each year badly enough to go to a hospital, and that's just the beginning. People who indoor tan damage their skin, often getting wrinkles, warts, rashes, and dark spots.

They may even get skin infections, cataracts in their eyes, and -- most dangerous of all -- skin cancer, including deadly melanoma.

Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States, and unlike almost all other kinds of cancer, the rates are climbing.

This is definitely not a trend you want to follow. Avoiding indoor tanning and protecting yourself from the sun when outdoors are the best ways to reduce your chance of getting skin cancer.

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