Packing for Fun in the Sun

Woman laying on the beach on a beach chair in a sun hat. Chances are good that you will be spending some time in the sun on your summer vacation.  So whether you are packing for a trip on a sunny beach in the Greek Isles or at a campground in the backwoods, don’t forget to pack sunscreen and sunglasses.  These two items will help protect you from the sun’s UVA and UVB rays.

UVB rays have been the focus of sunscreens for many years. The SPF (sun protection factor) is based on a product’s ability to block the UVB rays that are generally recognized as the rays that cause sunburn.  While there is no product that blocks 100% of these rays, an SPF of 30 (if applied adequately) will protect you from 96.7% of these rays as highlighted on a recent edition of The Early Show.

What is adequate coverage? Apply one ounce of water resistant sunscreen every couple of hours OR after swimming or perspiring. If you are having trouble visualizing an ounce, picture a shot glass.

UVA rays are less likely to cause sunburn, but are more likely to cause long term damage such as skin cancer.  University Health Services at Berkeley did a great job of making the distinction between UVA and UVB rays.

Currently there are no UVA ratings for sunscreen, but Henry Lim, chairman of the department of dermatology at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit recommends using products containing avobenzone (also called Parsol 1789), titanium dioxide or zinc oxide in order to protect your skin from these rays.

Pack some aloe and some anti-inflammatory drugs, in case you have the misfortune of getting burned.  The aloe will help soothe the burning and repair the damage.   Anti-inflammatory drugs including Motrin, Advil and aspirin  will help relieve the pain of the burn. (Note- aspirin is NOT safe for children.)  For additional sunburn remedies, click here.

In addition to protecting your skin, you need to protect your eyes which are just as vulnerable to long term damage from the sun.   As indicated in this article from U.S. News & World Report, sun exposure is the number one preventable factor in the development of macular degeneration.

The American Academy of Ophthalmology has several tips on protecting your eyes from sun damage (especially during peak sun times):  wear sunglasses that block 100 percent of UVA and UVB rays, choose glasses that block sun rays from entering from the side as well as the front, and don’t forget to protect your children’s eyes, too.

Avoid short term pain from sunburn and long term complications from skin damage by staying out of the sun during peak hours (you may want to ask advice from the locals when visiting areas in the tropics or in high altitudes), wearing sunscreen, a hat, a lip balm with an SPF in it and sunglasses.


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