Sun Safety: Burn or Not To Burn

By: Michael Appleman, M.S.


Did you know that one bad blister due to sunburn on a child can double the chance of developing skin cancer in the future? Learn about how you can protect yourself and your child from the sun. The harmful rays can be the result of future skin problems.


Most of us enjoy to spend time outside. It has been stated that the risk of serious skin damage from the sun is becoming greater each and every day. By protecting yourself and your family from the sun's harmful rays, you will be reducing the chance of skin damage and skin cancer.

Ultraviolet Radiation (UV)

Ultraviolet Radiation (UV) are invisible rays from the sun that causes burns on your skin and can contribute to skin cancer. UV rays infiltrate deep into the skin and can also be part of the cause to wrinkling of your skin, and premature aging.

UV Index

The UV Index is issued daily to inform everybody on the intensity of the sun's UV Rays in your area. The UV Index is based on monitoring the sun's location, cloud activities, height, ozone data, and other related factors. The UV Index was intended to help you make knowledgeable decisions about the time you spend in the sun. The higher the UV Index level, the greater the intensity of the sun's UV rays and the quicker you can burn. Always remember to check the UV Index each day before you go out.

The level of the UV that will reach you depends on the following:

   1. TIME OF DAY:  UV is the strongest when the sun is at its highest in the sky. That is between 10 AM and 2 PM. The UV is usually less in the early morning and later afternoon.
   2. SEASON:  While UV contact is the greatest in the summer, May-August in the United States, it is essential to keep in mind that
   the UV rays connect with the earth every day of every season. Eighty-five to ninety percent of the UV rays are reflected by concrete, sand, water and snow. Keep in mind that you can burn even on a cloudy day.
   3. ALTITUDE:  It has been found that the air is cleaner and thinner at higher altitudes. That results in the UV rays to be greater in the mountains than in the valleys.
   4. LOCATION:  UV is at its strongest at the equator and becomes weaker as you travel in the direction of the poles. If you live in or are traveling to the tropics, you should be prepared. Take your sunscreen with you and remember to put it on.
   5. TIME IN THE SUN:  The longer you are in the sun, the more your body is in contact with the UV rays. Remember to take precautions.

Below is a chart that explains the UV Exposure levels, UV Index, recommended SPF levels and the amount of time to burn without sun screen.

UV Index Chart

This Chart Shows The
Time It Will Take
To Burn Your Skin
Without Suncreen
UV Exposure Level
Very High
UV Index Level
SPF 15
SPF 15
SPF 15
SPF 30
SPF 45
10 minutes
or less

Sun Protection Factor (SPF)

The Sun Protection Factor (SPF) indicates how much longer a person can stay in the sun before beginning to burn when you have sunscreen on your skin. While sunscreen generally has SPF numbers ranging from 2 to 50, most dermatologists recommend that you use a sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher. Doctors have also stated that the higher the sunscreen the better you can be protected, if you do not exceed the maximum time in the sun. They also suggest that you put SPF of 30 or higher on your children.

Sun Screen Safety Tips

   1. Apply a sunscreen with UVA/UVB protection with an SPF of at least 15 every time you or your family members are exposed to the sun.
   2. Reapply sunscreen after you go swimming, take a shower, towel off, perspiring or play vigorously.
   3. Be sure to use enough sunscreen to provide complete coverage. If you have thinning hair, or bald spots, you should apply sunscreen to the scalp.
   4. Avoid reflective surfaces, since the UV rays can bounce off the sand, snow, concrete and water.
   5. The suns rays are the strongest between 10 am and 2 pm. It is best to stay out of the sun during that time.
   6. Always wear protective clothing when outside. Cover up with tightly woven clothing, wide-brimmed hat, and UV-blocking

Sun Safety Facts

   1. Melanoma, which is the deadliest form of skin cancer, kills one person every hour.
   2. Just one bad, blistering sunburn as a child can double your chance of developing skin cancer later in life.
   3. Skin cancer is the most commonly occurring form of cancer in the United States. More than 1 million new cases of skin cancer are
   diagnosed each year in the United States.
   4. The depletion of the ozone layer and other environmental factors have led to an increase of harmful UV-rays exposure.
   5. Concrete, sand, water, and snow reflect 85% to 90% of the UV rays. You can burn even on a cloudy day.
   6. On the average, children get three times more sun exposure than adults.