July is UV Safety Awareness Month

Shot of a young family building a sandcastle under an umbrella
Shot of a young family building a sandcastle under an umbrella

The month of July is colored with swimwear, sunshine, baseball, and the smell of burgers and hot dogs on the grill in the backyard. School is out for the summer for many children, and the thrill of sleeping in and having little or no reading and work to be done puts a smile on everyone’s face. And, in the midst of the fun and sunshine is a nationally supported effort to remind everyone about UV safety.

It is commonly known that the sun emits UV rays and that UV rays are bad for the skin and the eyes. It might not be as commonly known, though, that there are two kinds of UV rays that impact the skin differently. UV-B rays have shorter wavelengths than UV-A rays and can reach the outer layer of the skin while the UV-A rays can reach to the middle layer of skin and can cause premature aging and wrinkling. It’s the UV-B rays that mainly cause sunburns and most skin cancers because they have more energy than UV-A rays.

In addition to the impact that UV rays can have on the skin is the potential to cause serious eye damage. Extended exposure to UV light has been linked to the development of cataracts and macular degeneration, which both can lead to blindness. Fortunately, there are surgeries capable of removing cataracts and restoring sight, but macular degeneration patients do not have that outlet. Once the sight starts depleting, there is no way to get it back, only slow the process to blindness down.

Because UV rays can have such a detrimental impact on the skin and eye health, it is important to protect both from extended sun exposure using the traditional methods of sunscreen, hats, and sunglasses. July is not the only time of the year to take precautions into account, but it is a month more full of outdoor play and fun than others in the calendar year. Make sure that you and your children are doing everything you can to be proactive about protecting your skin and vision from the harmful rays of the sun.