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Enjoy Summer Sun Safely

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture

Warm temperatures and extra hours of sunlight entice many to spend more time outdoors in the summer, increasing exposure to harmful rays that can cause skin damage and are linked to skin cancer, according to the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services (CHFS).

As of last year, 1,135 people were discharged from Kentucky medical facilities due to sunburns. Of those, 32 required inpatient hospitalizations. In addition, sunburn-related medical charges totaled almost $1 million. This summer, CHFS urges all Kentuckians to protect themselves and their loved ones, particularly young children, from harmful sun exposure.

“The sun can be extremely damaging to a person’s health, resulting in painful burns, sun damage and in some cases, skin cancer,” said William Hacker, M.D., commissioner of the Kentucky Department for Public Health (DPH). “It’s extremely important to protect yourself. Even more important is for parents and caregivers to properly supervise children and prevent them from experiencing painful and sometimes life-threatening burns.”

According to DPH, some sunlight - about 15 minutes twice a week - is necessary for people to make and use vitamin D. However, exposure in excess of this can be dangerous. Overexposure to sunlight can lead to extreme pain and skin injury, particularly for young children. DPH stresses the importance of adults supervising and taking adequate precautions on behalf of children to protect them from serious sunburn.

“This is not only a public health issue, but it’s also an issue of our ability and willingness to protect and ensure the safety and welfare of children in care,” said LaShana Harris, director of the Division of Regulated Child Care in the CHFS Office of Inspector General (OIG).

The OIG reminds child care providers that overexposure to sunlight as well as letting children go barefoot while walking on hot surfaces, such as concrete, are threats to a child’s health, safety and well-being.

“Though the summer is a great time to expose children to the outdoors and engage in playground and other outdoor activities, child care providers need to be mindful of certain dangers sunlight can present,” Harris said.

In addition to immediate pain, overexposure to sunlight, sun damage and burns can heighten the risk for developing skin cancer. According to the Kentucky Cancer Registry, the incidence rate of invasive skin cancer in Kentucky was nearly 22 out of every 100,000 people from 2001 to 2005. The mortality rate for the same period was 4.39 per 100,000 people.

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Some tips for avoiding sunburn or side effects linked to sun exposure are:

− Avoid sunbathing.

− Avoid tanning parlors.

− Wear a hat that shields your face from the sun.

− Limit your sun exposure. The sun is hottest and strongest between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m.

− Use sunscreen with a sun protection factor of 15 or greater.

− Wear sunglasses that are UV rated.

− Choose cosmetics, moisturizing creams and lotions that contain sunscreen.

− Protect your lips with products that have a sun protection factor of 15 or greater.