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Sun Protection: What is the UV Index and Tips for Skin Safety

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Don’t get burned! Take precautions to protect your skin from the summer sun and enjoy being outdoors. Let’s dig into what the ‘UV Index’ is all about and tips for sun protection for you and your family.

During the summer months we hear a lot about the ‘UV Index.’  But, what does it really mean?  The ‘UV Index’ provides a forecast of the expected risk of overexposure to UV radiation from the sun. The National Weather Service calculates the UV Index forecast for most ZIP codes across the U.S., and the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) publishes this information. The UV Index is accompanied by recommendations for sun protection and is a useful tool for planning sun-safe outdoor activities.

Ozone depletion, as well as seasonal and weather variations, cause different amounts of UV radiation to reach the Earth at any given time. Taking these factors into account, the UV Index predicts the level of solar UV radiation and indicates the risk of overexposure on a scale from 0 (low) to 11 or more (extremely high). A special UV Alert may be issued for a particular area, if the UV Index is forecasted to be higher than normal.

UV radiation is greatest when the sun is highest in the sky and rapidly decreases as the sun approaches the horizon.

Now that we have a general understanding of what the UV Index means, how can we better protect our skin? The CDC provides these sun safety tips:

  • Seek shade, especially during the midday hours
  • Cover up with clothing to protect exposed skin
  • Wear a hat with a wide brim to shade the face, head, ears, and neck
  • Wear sunglasses that wrap around and blocks as close to 100 percent of both UVA and UVB rays as possible
  • Put on sunscreen with sun protective factor SPF 15 or higher, and both UVA and UVB protection
  • Avoid tanning beds and sunlamps.  The UV rays from them are dangerous as the UV rays from the sun

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