Staying protected from the sun during UV safety month

As vacation and summer activities bring families outdoors, Dr. Mark Cleveland, of the Great River Health Systems, says its important to take a few minutes and protect yourself and your family from the negative effects of UV rays.

Cleveland, who also sees patients at the Henry County Health Center, sat down with the News to share a few facts and helpful tips about UV protection as July is national UV safety month.

There are three main types of UV rays ? UVA, UVB and UVC ? Cleveland explains. According to Dr. Cleveland, UVA are the most genetically damaging. The rays go deeper into the skin and are found in large amounts in tanning beds. ?Outdoor sun is primarily A and B,? he said. ?If you went to a tanning bed you?d get primarily A.?

However, UVC is rarely a concern for people because it does not break the atmosphere. ?C is mostly eradicated or taken out by the ozone layer,? he says. He also noted that window glass is a filter of UVB, but not UVA. Because of this, people still run the risk of sun exposure which explains sunburn sometimes found when driving. Clouds behave similarity in that they do not block UV rays. He says most sunscreens are both UVA and UVB blockers and work together to protect the skin. Broad spectrum sunscreens are an example of this. Most sunscreens are broad spectrum but Dr. Cleveland says giving a second glance at the bottle before purchasing is always a good idea, especially when swimming or sweating.

Before purchasing sunscreen, it?s a good idea to look at the SPF rating. SPF stands for sun protectant factor and the number associated determines the level of protection the cream will add. For example, an SPF of 50 will add 50 times the protection to skin that no sunscreen would which means it would take 50 times as long for the skin to redden. Dr. Cleveland says reapplying is almost more important than the level of SPF because constant reapplication will keep the skin safe. ?Usually we want SPF 30 or higher with reapplication every hour,? he says.

When applying sunscreen, Dr. Cleveland says sprays are the most popular because of their ease but most do not apply them correctly. According to the directions on the bottle, they are intended to be sprayed on the hands then applied to the skin.

However most people only spray around the body which can mean non-even application. This can be incredibly harmful to the skin because it leaves areas exposed.

Exposure to the sun is a great way to receive vitamin D which Dr. Cleveland says is a problem for most people as he says most primary care physicians agree that vitamin D is the number one vitamin people lack.

?It turns out that if you sun protect, it does compromise the effectiveness of vitamin D,? he says. ?(However) you can overcome that by implementing supplements.? He explains that by sunprotecting, the amount of vitamin D that is reduced into active form which is essential for bone health, is lowered. However, Dr. Cleveland says this is no excuse not to sun protect as there are plenty of other ways to get vitamin D. ?Theoretically, yes you do have a risk of having a lower active amount of vitamin D but again that can be overcome by supplements,? he said.

Whether taking in supplements or sunprotecting, Dr. Cleveland stresses that the most important part of UV protection is paying attention. Anything that looks out of the ordinary could be potentially deadly and should be looked at immediately. ?Always watch your spots,? he reminds. ?If they change, you need to get ahold of (a doctor).?