July has been designated as National Ultraviolet (UV) Safety Month by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The goal of this special recognition is to create awareness of how important it is to protect yourself from the harmful effects of the sun’s ultraviolet light radiation or rays. While UV rays are the main cause of skin cancer, they can also have harmful effects like eye damage and vision loss.
So, what are UV rays? “Ultraviolet” just means “beyond violet”, which is the color of the highest frequency of visible light. Ultraviolet rays are present in sunlight but are mostly invisible to our human eyes. The rays are defined by the wavelength of the light and are broken down into three categories:
- UVA - Not absorbed by ozone layer
- UVB - Mostly absorbed by ozone)
- UVC - Completely absorbed by ozone and atmosphere
Both UVA and UVB rays can damage skin and cause cancer. There are no safe UV rays!
The risk of damaging UV radiation depends on a number of factors including the length of time you are exposed and whether you are protected. UV exposure is based on the time of day, season and cloud cover. Be extra cautious between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. in the summer and know that cloudy days do not mean that you are safe. Some clouds block UV rays and some clouds reflect or even actually increase our UV exposure. To help us better understand the strength of UV light in our area on a given day, the National Weather Service has developed the UV Index. On the index scale, a higher number means we are at a greater risk of exposure, higher chance of sunburn and damage to skin and eyes.
Most of us have been taught to wear sun protection for the skin and how to avoid the damage from UV rays. The recommended way is to wear protective clothing as well as a broad-brimmed hat. Prior to enjoying the outdoors, you should also apply a water-resistant sunscreen with a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of 30 or higher and reapply every two hours when you’re swimming or sweating. We have all experienced the visible effects of UV overexposure like sunburn or suntan.
However, many people are unaware extended exposure to UV rays can cause long-term eye damage. Just because you can’t see the damage doesn’t mean you don’t have to take precautions with your eyes. UV radiation eye damage can lead to serious complications like blindness, eye cancer, cataracts or macular degeneration. Remember that sunglasses are not just a fashion statement; they are an important tool in defending your eyes from UV radiation. You should wear sunglasses that block 100% of UV rays and wrap around to protect your eyes from every angle. Be sure and look for labels that say UVA and UVB or UV 400 protection. It is also just as important to wear them during the cooler months when the sun is not as intense, but the UV rays still are. Prevention is the best defense when it comes to protecting your eye health. Be sure and check out our many stylish options for sunglasses at our Little Rock or Hot Springs locations.
During the month of July, join with us and the American Cancer Society to promote this clever slogan. It is easy to remember for the ultimate ultraviolet (UV) light radiation (rays) protection.
“Slip on a shirt, Slop on sunscreen, Slap on a hat and Wrap on sunglasses”