It’s tempting to sit out in the sun all day. Who wouldn’t love to kick back on the beach with a book or a cold beverage and catch a tan without a care in the world? But the more we learn about the powerful effects of UV rays, the more we know we need to focus on our long-term health when we’re in the sun. The lasting impact of sun exposure is serious, and you’ll get burned if you’re not always focused on protecting your skin.

Protecting yourself from sun exposure

To protect yourself from the sun, avoid it. Powerful rays can even get you in the shade. If you are outside, the sun is strongest from 10 in the morning to 2 in the afternoon. While you always want to wear sunscreen when you’re out, try to wear protective clothing also if you’re out in the heat of the day.

Over time, exposure to the sun causes wrinkles and age spots. The sun can actually increase the effects of aging, canceling out any immediate benefit of a nice tan. Increased exposure also contributes to a risk of skin cancer.

Skin cancer is the most prevalent form of cancer in the U.S. If you have freckles or skin that is sensitive to the sun, you may be at a heightened risk of getting skin cancer. Family history, working outdoors, or living in a place where you are exposed to the sun regularly all contribute to your risk. If you see changes in your skin like new moles or spots, seek a professional opinion immediately.

Kids and the sun

To teach your children about the dangers of sun exposure, start early. Sun Safety for Kids says, “Block the sun, not the fun!” Their advice is to encourage a culture of awareness. Explain to kids that if they are outside they need to wear sunscreen. You can also keep a hat near the door so they have protection readily available on their way out to play. When children are old enough, explain the power of the sun and why they need to be vigilant even when you are not around.

As the Center for Disease Control and Prevention warns, “even a few serious sunburns can increase your child’s risk of getting skin cancer.” Never think skin is just a “little pink.” Pink skin will develop into a more serious burn. Because it only takes 15 minutes of exposure to get sunburn, try to apply sunscreen at home before you leave the house. When you arrive at the pool or park and your children take off, they might get burned before you can catch them to apply sunscreen.

Cool temps and cloud cover are not an excuse to let down your guard. UV rays can still get to people even when the weather seems pleasant and harmless. Staying on top of sun safety is a daily thing. Try to involve the whole family and make it a habit. You’ll find success in routine.

Amplifying the effects of the sun

You’re doing great keeping sunscreen on your skin, but what you put inside your body is important, too. There are a lot of medicines on the market that may cause increased sensitivity to sunlight. If your medicine causes photosensitivity, it is probably listed on the label. Beyond prescriptions, over-the-counter pain relievers, herbal supplements, and some skin care products cause sensitivity to the sun.

Talk to your physician or dermatologist any time you get a prescription. Ask if the medicine can heighten your sensitivity to sun.

Every tan causes skin damage

You brush your teeth every day. Why not protect your skin from the sun while you’re at it? It’s time to add sunscreen to your daily routine. Before you leave for the day, grab your wallet or purse, grab your keys, and apply some SPF. Remember, there is no such thing as a “healthy tan.” Also, a “base tan” won’t protect you from damaging sun exposure. You need to protect yourself and your children every day of the year. Getting complacent because you think your tan looks great can be dangerous to your health.

For additional information about sun exposure and how you can protect your family, talk to a physician at your local FastMed Urgent Care. A doctor can give you a recommendation about sunscreen and look at spots on your body to make sure something serious is not going on.