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 protection measures recommended.

Here are some additional measures for protecting children.

For babies under 6 months

Do not use sunscreen on babies of this age. Their skin is super sensitive and applying such creams can cause allergic reactions.

To protect your baby:

  • Keep them in the shade, for instance, in a covered stroller or under a parasol
  • Cover their head with a wide-brimmed hat
  • Dress them in clothes that cover their arms and legs
  • When possible, avoid planning outdoor activities when UV ray intensity is at its highest, which is between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. Opt for other moments in the day

For children over 6 months

To protect your child:

  • Keep them in the shade
  • Cover their head with a hat
  • Dress them in clothes that cover their arms and legs
  • Apply sunscreen on areas not protected by clothing 30 minutes before your child goes outside, even on a cloudy day
  • Repeat application of sunscreen every two hours and after swimming

You can apply sunscreen on children over 6 months. However, make sure you use a sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or more and that is PABA free, as this is an ingredient that can cause allergic reactions.

Eyes and the sun*

The sun’s UV rays are dangerous to the eyes and can be reflected by sand, water, and snow.

Pupils close naturally, 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

Medicines and UV rays

Some medicines are photosensitizers, meaning they make the skin more sensitive to the sun's rays. They can cause, among other things, irritation, redness and swelling.

If you or your children take medication, ask your doctor or pharmacist if those medicines are photosensitizers.