The sun is essential to life. However, you must expose yourself to it safely. Repeated and excessive exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays can:
- Damage skin
- Cause damage to the eyes
- Increase risk of skin cancer
Tanning is a sign that the skin has sustained deep cellular damage. It is not recommended to tan, whether under the sun or with artificial tanning lamps.
Check the UV Index to find out the intensity of the sun’s UV rays when planning your outdoor activities. The greater the UV Index, the stronger the UV rays and the more you should be protected. You can get daily UV Index by checking local weather forecasts.
People at Risk
Some people are more sensitive to UV rays because they naturally have less melanin in their skin. Melanin is a black pigment that absorbs UV rays and protects the skin.
People most at risk of harming themselves after exposure to UV rays have one of the following:
- Pale skin
- Blue eyes
- Blond or red hair
You should always protect yourself, even on a cloudy day.
How to Protect Yourself
Here are a few recommendations:
- Protect yourself properly if you stay in the sun for more than 15 minutes, especially between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. This is the period when the intensity of UV rays is highest
- Never use artificial tanning equipment
During outdoor activities
- Stay in the shade as much as possible, even at the beach, by using a parasol
- Wear protective clothing such as a wide-brimmed hat or a cap, long-sleeved-shirt and long pants. Opt for woven or tightly knitted clothing rather than clothing made of looser fabric
- Wear sunglasses that protect your eyes as much from UVA rays as they do for UVB rays. Opt for glasses whose shape closely follows your face, and that protect both the front and the side of your eyes
- If you cannot avoid being exposed to the sun, regularly apply a sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or more. Note that sunscreen should never be used to purposefully prolong your stay in the sun
Use of a sunscreen recommended by the Canadian Dermatology Association is advised.
- Apply sunscreen on parts of the skin not protected by clothing. A simple way to determine how much sunscreen to use is by filling the palm of your hand
- Wear sunscreen 30 minutes before going out in the sun, especially before swimming
- Apply sunscreen again after swimming or after intense physical activity
Protect your Kids
Children’s skin is more sensitive to sunlight than that of adults. Avoid exposing them to the sun without protection between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. Lead by example by following the recommended protection measures yourself.
Here are some additional measures for protecting children.
For babies under 6 months
It is preferable to keep your baby in the shade and protect them with clothing and a hat. The skin is very delicate at this age. Applying sunscreen might cause allergic reactions.
For children over 6 months
When your child is outside, have them put on a hat or clothing that covers their arms and legs. About 30 minutes before they go outside, apply sunscreen to the uncovered areas of the body. Reapply sunscreen every two hours and after swimming. It is a good idea to always keep your child as covered as possible (light clothing, hat) and keep them in the shade to protect them from the sun’s rays. Up to 85 percent of ultraviolet (UV) rays can penetrate through clouds. So you should always use sunscreen, even when it’s cloudy. Choose sunscreen with a high sun protection factor (SPF 30 or higher). Your pharmacist can advise you if you have any questions.
Eyes and the sun*
The sun’s UV rays are dangerous to the eyes and can be reflected by sand and water.
In bright light, pupils naturally constrict, reducing the intensity of the rays entering the eyes. However, the best way to protect your child’s eyes is to put a large brimmed hat or cap on his head.
Never seat your child in facing the sun. Shade is best.
If you decide to put sunglasses on your child, make sure they protect against UV rays before you buy them. Look for the words “100% UV protection” or “UV 400.”
* Source : From Tiny Tot to Toddler, Institut national de santé publique du Québec, 2020
Last update: June 18, 2021