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Staying Safe Under the Sun: Helpful Tips on Sun Awareness and Protection

MedStudentsBlog1

Kevin Russell, Natasha Larivee, Cameron Ashe, and Matt Stewart, LIC Clerks, Dalhousie Medicine New Brunswick, Horizon's Miramichi Regional Hospital

Hey fellow New Brunswickers!

The official start of summer is just around the corner and we're finally seeing the sun again.

Right now, we're in the Miramichi, rounding out the last few months of our clerkship experience at Horizon's Miramichi Regional Hospital through Dalhousie University.

With the nice weather recently, we were fortunate enough to get out on the river to experience fly fishing for the first time. The Miramichi River is a great place to spend summer days, but like many other beautiful places in N.B., it was important to remember to protect ourselves from the sun!

Sun protection is something many people know about, but often forget about in the moments that matter most. We all know the sun on our skin makes vitamin D, which helps strengthen our bones and teeth; it's also good for our general well-being.

It's just important to remember that too much sun exposure without protective clothing and sunscreen can be harmful.

A lot of the dangerous energy produced by the sun is filtered out before reaching Earth by the atmosphere (mostly by the ozone layer), but some harmful rays still reach us in the form of UV-A and UV-B light. This is the light that can burn our skin and, with repeated exposure, potentially increase our risk for several different types of skin cancers.

Sunburn can occur in as little as 15 minutes. As mentioned, one of the most important ways you can protect yourselves and your family and friends from the sun is to use a sunscreen with high SPF and broad spectrum (UV-A and UV-B) protection.

SPF stands for "Sun Protection Factor." It measures how well your skin is protected from UV radiation. For example, if your skin would normally burn after 10 minutes in the sun, an SPF 15 would protect your skin for 15X longer, so for 150 minutes. Ideally, you would choose to use a higher SPF, like an SPF 30 or 50.

It's also important to remember that swimming, using a towel and even sweating may unintentionally remove sunscreen, so be sure to reapply every hour.

Other strategies to protect yourself from the sun include using sunshades/umbrellas and wearing light clothing that can shield your skin from the sun. For example, it is important to wear hats because you can burn the top of our heads, even if you have hair. Other tips include wearing sunglasses and a lip balm with an SPF in it.

It is easy to reduce the risks of sun damage by planning ahead and protecting yourselves when the sun is the strongest.

Before going outside, it's always a good idea to check the weather and the predicted UV index for the day. UV rays are most intense between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m., when the sun is most directly overhead. This is often the nicest part of the day - when you'll want to be outside. If you are outside during this time, it's best to try and spend some time in the shade - especially between noon and 2 p.m. If you are in the sun, be mindful of how long you are in direct sunlight and remember to protect your skin.

Children under the age of one need special care in the sun. Keep babies out of direct sunlight either in a stroller with a hood or canopy, under an umbrella or in a heavily shaded spot. Babies should wear sun hats with a wide brim. Dress infants in loose-fitting, lightweight clothing covering the legs and arms.

You can use sunscreen on babies under six months of age, although it is preferable to avoid the sun and use shade and clothing. For babies over six months old, sunscreen may be applied to areas of the skin that are not covered by clothing such as the face and the backs of the hands. Avoid the mouth and eye area when applying.

Right about now, you may be thinking that it sounds very dangerous to enjoy the sunshine at all. This is great - it means that you respect how powerful the sun truly is!

However, the sun should not frighten you - it's essential to life on Earth! Remember that humans have been enjoying the sunshine for as long as we've existed, but we're just much more informed these days on how to enjoy it safely.

Go out and enjoy the sun and the coast this summer because we definitely plan to! We just want to remind you to be safe while you're doing it.

And if you do notice any moles on your body are changing in size or in colour, please see a health professional to get yourself checked.

 

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