We haven’t forgotten that July is UV Protection Month, a reminder to all of us to protect our eyes and skin! It is most important that we do everything we can to preserve our vision. It is unimaginable to think about being without the gift of sight, or facing malenoma, a life-threatening form of skin cancer.
You have heard about the types of UV rays, but let’s review them again:
UV-C rays are the most harmful, but are blocked by the ozone layer. If they ever reach the earth’s surface, they could cause serious health concerns. UV-B rays have high doses which cause sunburn and can cause skin cancer. Other age-related signs of too much sun are wrinkles and skin discoloration. UV-A rays can pass through the cornea, reaching the lens and retina inside the eye. Overexposure of these rays is linked to certain types of cataracts, and development of macular degeneration. Both these types of rays are shielded by the ozone layer, therefore, they are not as harmful as UV-C. Because of weather changes, and seasons, however, we must be mindful that there may be some depletion of the ozone layer.
It is very important to remind you to select sunglasses that block 99-100% of both UV-A and UV-B radiation. Also be sure that the lens are free from distortion and any imperfections. Wrap-around styles allow more protection to the sides of the face. It is of the utmost importance to protect children’s eyes from these rays, as well. They need to wear glasses that contain the same element of protection as an adult’s, not toy ones. Much of the damage from the sun happens during childhood, only to show up later in life. It goes without saying that in addition to sunglasses, suncreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15 should be used often while anyone is in the sun, as well as wearing a wide-brimmed hat, or using an umbrella, if sitting outdoors.
Those who work outside should take precautions to wear eye protection and other types of personal protective equipment. There are special sunshields that fit hardhats that help protect the face from the sun.
The following UV Index helps explain the stages of exposure to rays:
- 2 or Less = Low, for average person. On hot days, persons should still wear glasses and sunscreen.
- 3 to 5 = Moderate. Use the shadow test. In early morning or late afternoon if you are taller than your shadow, UV exposure is likely to be low. If your shadow is shorter around mid-day, levels of UV are higher.
- 6-7= High. From 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. is the worst time to be outdoors. Be sure to use at least 15 SPF sunscreen, and often.
- 8-10= Very high. Because your skin will burn quickly, take extra precautions.
- 11+ = Extreme. Stay out of the sun, especially from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. if possible.
Another thing to remember, if you are around sand or water, is that reflections can damage your eyes. Reflections from snow almost double that from sand. Persons with darker skin and eyes need to protect their eyes the same as more fair persons.
There’s no way we can be immune from the dangers of overexposure from UV rays. But we can take all the precautions possible to avoid damage to our eyes and skin.