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Indiana State Health Officials Offer Sun Safety Tips

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Sun Safety Tips

Indiana State health officials encourage people to get out and be active, but also offer sun safety tips to keep them safe.

Summer is upon us, and throughout these potentially hot months, Hoosiers will be enjoying the outdoors more with family and friends.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), sunburn increases the risk of getting certain types of skin cancer, including melanoma and basal cell carcinoma. The percentage of adults in the United States who were sunburned increased from 31.8 percent to 33.7 from 1999 to 2004.

"Melanoma is a very dangerous type of skin cancer," said State Health Commissioner Judy Monroe, M.D. "I encourage people to take precautions to protect themselves while they are out in the sun."

Health officials recommend that people:

Use sunscreen or sun block, as directed, that has a sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 or higher;

* Wear a hat; and

* Put on a shirt, especially they will have prolonged exposure to the sun.

* When temperatures reach 90 degrees (Fahrenheit) or greater, health officials caution that overexposure to the heat can be a concern. Young children and the elderly are at increased risk for such heat-related illnesses as heat stroke or heat exhaustion. Children should never be left in parked cars, even with the windows cracked open, because of the risk of heat stroke and possibly death.

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Heat cramps are muscular pains in the abdomen, legs, and arms that occur from strenuous activity and increased sweating. Heat exhaustion can develop after several days of high temperatures and low fluid intake. Heat stroke, also known as sunstroke or hyperthermia, is a life-threatening situation in which the body is unable to regulate its temperature and cannot cool itself down.

"When temperatures and the humidity are high, I recommend drinking plenty of water even if you don't feel thirsty. Participating in strenuous outdoor activity should be done in the early part of the day, when it is cooler," said Dr. Monroe.

If a heat wave is predicted or occurring follow these safety tips:

* Wear lightweight, light-colored clothing outdoors.

* Avoid drinks with alcohol or caffeine. They can make you feel good briefly, but make the heat's effect on your body worse. This is especially true about beer, which dehydrates the body.

* Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water, the safest liquid to drink during heat emergencies.

* Eat small meals and eat more often. Avoid foods that are high in protein, which increase metabolic heat.

* Avoid using salt tablets unless directed to do so by a physician.

* Seek shade and avoid the sun between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.

* Slow down. Avoid strenuous exertion on hot days. If you must do arduous activity, do it during the coolest time of the day, which is usually in the morning.

* Stay indoors as much as possible. If air conditioning is not available, stay on the lowest floor, out of the sun. Try to go to a public building with air conditioning each day for several hours.

Health officials say the use of fans may increase comfort at temperatures less than 90 F, but is not protective against heatstroke when temperatures reach greater than 90 F and humidity exceeds 35 percent. Although fans do not cool the air, they do help sweat evaporate, which cools your body. Taking a cool shower or bath is also a good way to cool the body.