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NEWS | July 15, 2008

The heat is on; be sun safe this summer

By Regina Creech Health and Wellness Center

It is definitely "that" time in the Lowcountry when everyone is talking about the three H's: hazy, hot and humid. For anyone who has stepped outside in the last few weeks ... it is hot out there. Here are some tips to staying sun safe this summer:

Whenever outside, always limit exposure to ultraviolet rays. UV rays are a part of sunlight that is an invisible form of radiation. They can penetrate and change the form of skin cells.

There are three types of UV rays: ultraviolet A, ultraviolet B and ultraviolet C. UVA is the most abundant source of solar radiation at the earth's surface and penetrates beyond the top layer of human skin. Scientists believe that UVA radiation can cause damage to connective tissue and increase a person's risk for developing skin cancer.

UVB rays are less abundant at the earth's surface than UVA because a significant portion of UVB rays is absorbed by the ozone layer. UVB rays penetrate less deeply into the skin than do UVA rays, but also can be damaging.

UVC radiation is extremely hazardous to skin, but it is completely absorbed by the stratospheric ozone layer and does not even reach the surface of the earth.

The UV Index was developed by the National Weather Service and the Environmental Protection Agency. It provides a forecast of the expected risk of overexposure to UV rays and indicates the degree of caution people should take when working, playing or exercising outdoors.

When outdoors, remember to follow a few simple guidelines. If possible, limit sun exposure between the hours of 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. Be sure to use sunscreen or lip balm with a sun protection factor of 15 or greater. Pay close attention to areas that are particularly susceptible to burns such as the nose, ears, lips and under the eyes.

Sunscreen should protect people from both UVA and UVB rays and should be applied 20 to 30 minutes prior to exposure. Be sure to check sunscreen for an expiration date; most sunscreen products are no longer as effective after two to three years.

An easy way to remember these guidelines is with Slip, Slop, Slap, Wrap. Take cover or "Slip" on protective clothing. "Slop" on sunscreen. "Slap" on cap. And protect eyes by wearing sunglasses that "Wrap" and provide side coverage.

For more information about sun safety, contact the Health and Wellness Center at 963-6023.