July Health Beat

“Karen’s Kolumn” is researched and written by Public Health Nurse Karen Dolley. We appreciate her support and willingness to share!

July is UV Safety Month.

Everyone is at risk for eye damage that can lead to vision loss from exposure to the ultraviolet rays of the sun. During the summer months the level of ultraviolet radiation is three times greater than in the winter. Reflected sunlight off the water, snow, and pavement can be the most dangerous because it is intensified light and can damage the eye’s surface.

According to the World Health Organization, up to 80% of a person’s lifetime exposure to UV light is received before the age of 18. Children are more susceptible to UV damage because they usually spend more time outside than adults and the lenses of their eyes are more transparent which allows UV light to reach the retina. UV damage to the eyes builds over time.

Too much exposure to sunlight is dangerous causing immediate effects like sunburns but also causing long term problems like eye damage. Long term exposure may contribute to age related macular degeneration, the leading cause of vision loss among older Americans and cataracts, a major cause of visual impairment and blindness. Your eyes can also receive a sun burn known as photokeratitis which can cause pain, redness and tearing.

Protect eyes whenever outside for a prolonged period of time, even when it is an overcast day. Wear sunglasses that block 99-100% of UV-A and UV-B rays. Do not be fooled by the price tag or the darkness of the lenses when purchasing sunglasses. Consider sunglasses that wrap around your temples because they block the sun’s rays from entering on the sides which offers better protection. This is especially important if you spend time on the water or in the snow. Always wear eye protection when using sources of invisible, high energy UV rays like tanning lights or welding lamps.

Babies under 6 months of age should not be exposed to the sun. Dress them in light weight long pants, long sleeved shirts, and brimmed hats that shade the neck to avoid sunburn. A minimal amount of sunscreen with at least a 15 SPF may be applied to areas like the face and the back of the hands.

For all other children, the best defense is to keep them covered in cotton clothing, have them wear sunglasses, and have them wear a wide brimmed hat. Stay in the shade whenever possible. Limit sun exposure between 10 A.M. and 4 P.M. when the sun’s UV rays are the strongest. Put sunscreen on 30 minutes before going outside because it needs time to absorb into the skin. Use a sunscreen with SPF 15 or greater on both sunny and cloudy days. Reapply sunscreen every 2 hours and after swimming. Use extra caution near water, sand, and snow.

For more information, visit www.healthychildren.org and www.aao.org (American Academy of Ophthalmology).    

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