Summer Sun Protection Advice from the Sunny Skies of Los Angeles

Aug 2, 2013, 11:05 AM

Who better to offer up advice on summer sun protection than the Los Angeles County Health Department? Recently the department warned its residents to “practice summer sun smarts” to protect themselves from skin cancer, which, at 1 million diagnoses per year according to the Environmental Protection Agency, is now the most common form of cancer among Americans.

July is recognized as "UV Safety Month" to encourage everyone—not just those in Los Angeles—to protect themselves from ultraviolet (UV) rays, a major risk factor for most skin cancers, by using sunscreen and avoiding prolonged sun exposure during peak hours. “Simple sun safeguards can go a long way in protecting the health of you and your family this summer,” says Jonathan E. Fielding, MD, MPH, the departments’ director of public health.

In other summer sun safety news, this week the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and SAFE KIDS Worldwide partnered up to promote National Heatstroke Prevention Day this past Wednesday, July 31. NHTSA and their partners used this opportunity to educate parents on the dangers of leaving children in unattended vehicles in the summer heat, as there have already been over 20 heat-related deaths of children in cars this summer. Children’s body temperatures can spike three to five times faster than an adult’s, and even cool temperatures in the 60s can cause the temperature in the car to rise well above 110 degrees Fahrenheit—so safety steps are critical at all times.

Sun safety tips include:

  • Use a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15 and both UVA and UVB protection (check the label before buying to make sure.)
  • Apply sunscreen 15 minutes before going outdoors and reapply often, especially after going into the water or excessive sweating.
  • Keep newborns out of the sun. Sunscreen can’t be used until a child is six months old.
  • Before an outdoor activity check the National Weather Service UV index, which reports the current level of UV radiation on a scale of 1 (low) to 11 (extremely high).
  • Wear clothing that protects as much skin as possible. Dark colors provide more protection than light colors, and a tightly woven fabric protects better than loosely woven fabric. Wear a wide-brimmed hat to cover your face and neck.
  • Wear sunglasses that provide 100 percent UVA and UVB protection. Large-framed and wraparound sunglasses are more likely to protect your eyes. And, make sure your child s sunglasses have both UV protections, too.
  • Keep a large stuffed animal in your child’s seat when empty, and move it to the front seat when your child is in the car as a visual reminder
  • If you see a child alone in a hot vehicle, call 911 or your local emergency number immediately. If the child is in distress due to heat, get that child out as quickly as possible. Cool the child rapidly by spraying the child with cool water or with water from a garden hose.

>>Bonus Links:

  • See more sun and skin cancer protection tips from the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD).
  • Share these clever AAD sun and skin cancer protection public service announcements.
  • Learn more about the dangers of heatstroke for children left in unattended vehicles.
  • Watch the "Born" PSA below, which asks young women to stop tanning, because melanoma is the second-most-common form of cancer for teens and young adults 15-29.

This commentary originally appeared on the RWJF New Public Health blog.