Protecting yourself from sun exposure is important year-round. Whether you’re headed to the beach or the ski hill, don’t forget about sunscreen and sunglasses. Here are our top 10 tips for sun protection, wherever you’re travelling this winter.
10 sun protection tips for travellers
- Wear sunscreen… Sun damage can occur with as little as 15 minutes of unprotected sun exposure and sun exposure occurs even on cloudy days. Fifteen minutes before going outdoors, generously apply sunscreen with SPF 15 or higher. Sunscreen with SPF 30 is recommended for individuals who work outdoors or who spend much of their time outdoors.
- …and reapply often. Reapply sunscreen every 2 hours, or more often if you are swimming or sweating heavily.
- Know the climate. Sunscreen’s effectiveness is impacted by factors including the humidity, wind, and outdoor temperature.
- Stay in the shade. Avoiding sun exposure by staying in the shade is your best protection. When possible, seek shade under trees with thick, leafy canopies, an umbrella, or in the shadow of a building. Wear a hat with a wide brim that shades your face, neck, ears, and the top of your head.
- Cover up. Long-sleeved clothing in a tightly-woven fabric provides a physical barrier that limits the amount of UV rays reaching your skin. Wear loose clothing to allow air to circulate against the skin if you’re in a humid climate.
- Protect your eyes. Did you know that snow and bodies of water reflect UV rays that can damage your eyes? Prevent it by wearing sunglasses in bright conditions, especially when you’re near reflective surfaces like snow and water.
- Avoid the sun between 10am-4pm. This is when the UV index is the highest, the day is hottest, and you run the greatest risk of sunburn or heat-related illness.
- Be extra careful about sun protection for children. According to the Canadian Cancer Society, a significant amount of our lifetime sun exposure occurs before the age of 20. With this in mind, it’s especially important to keep children protected from the sun. Before children go outdoors, apply sunscreen generously and make sure they’re wearing hats and sunglasses. Sunscreen with SPF 30 is good protection for children over 6 months. Pediatricians like Kids Travel Doc do not recommend using sunscreen on infants: babies should instead be kept in the shade.
- Sunscreen first, repellent second. Wearing long sleeves in a tightly-woven fabric is an effective way to prevent mosquito bites. Apply sunscreen and insect repellent to any exposed skin. When wearing sunscreen and repellent at the same time, apply sunscreen first, then apply repellent on top. Products that combine sunscreen and repellent are not as effective. Be aware that repellent with DEET can reduce the effectiveness of sunscreen and you may have to reapply both more often.
- Know when to seek medical treatment for a heat-related illness. Some minor sun- and heat-related problems like sunburn and heat cramps can be treated with hydration, rest, a cool environment, or topical anti-inflammatory ointments; however you should seek medical attention if you have early symptoms of heat stroke such as confusion, loss of coordination, headache, or nausea and an elevated body temperature where the skin feels hot to the touch.
What is SPF?
SPF, or sun protection factor, is the extra protection sunscreen, clothing, or sunglasses provide against UVB rays. SPF 15 is the minimum recommended for sun protection. An estimate of the extra protection provided by sunscreen is calculated by multiplying the amount of time it takes a person to get sunburnt by the SPF value of the sunscreen.
Always follow the manufacturer’s directions for how often to reapply sunscreen. If in doubt, reapply: heat, humidity, swimming, and sweat can all impact sunscreen’s effectiveness.
Photo courtesy of Prashant Jambunathan, freeimages.