5 Tips for Staying Safe in the Sun

Here we are, smack dab in the middle of summer. Luckily for Austinites, there are plenty of ways to keep cool, from a dip in Barton Springs Pool to water sports on Lady Bird Lake. Before diving in, keep in mind these sun safety tips to help ensure your family’s fun in the sun isn’t overshadowed by the potential hazards of the Texas heat.

* Time your sunscreen application: While we’re all aware of how critical it is to wear sunscreen, you may not realize that the timing of your sunscreen application plays a key role as well. Allowing 20 to 30 minutes for the sunscreen to sink in before going outdoors maximizes the benefit and provides optimal protection.

* Protect all areas of your body:
The tops of the ears, part in the hair, and back of the neck are three areas that are often forgotten when we’re applying sunscreen.

* Understand SPF: Higher SPFs don’t necessarily translate to major added benefits. When it comes to blocking harmful UVB rays, SPF 30 blocks about 97 percent; SPF 50 blocks nearly 98 percent; and SPF 100 blocks around 99 percent. The takeaway? An SPF 50 sunscreen that’s labeled “broad spectrum”–meaning it also protects against UVA rays–is your best bet.

* Slather on generously: It turns out, most people aren’t applying nearly enough sunscreen as they should, which may leave them wondering why they get burned even if they feel they’re being precautious. When evaluating SPFs, testers apply two milligrams of sunscreen per square centimeter of skin, but most people only apply about one-third of that amount. The general rule of thumb is to apply about two tablespoons to the exposed areas of the face and body.

* Recognize the signs of heat exhaustion: Muscle cramping, clammy skin, and body weakness are a few of the warning signs that could signal a heat-related illness.

Summertime and the outdoors go hand-in-hand, and by heeding the tips above, you can help ensure this laid-back season is filled with fond memories, minus the burn.

The author of this article, Diane M. McCullom, is the senior vice president of clinical operations at Dallas-based Epic Health Services, a leading provider of pediatric skilled nursing, therapy, developmental, enteral and respiratory services, as well as adult home health services, with operations in 17 states. Epic has three locations in Austin.

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