The weather is warming up, the days are longer and there's more time to be outside
doing all kinds of fun things!
But if you're going to be out in the sun, especially on a hot day, you need to
stay safe. Let's find out how.
Don't Feel the Burn
Even though the sun is hot, it does cool things. It keeps us warm. It makes flowers
and plants grow. It even gives us vitamin D so we can better absorb calcium into our
bodies for strong bones.
It does all these things by sending down light, which includes invisible ultraviolet
(say: ul-trah-VYE-uh-lit) rays. These are also called UV
rays. Some ultraviolet rays pass through air and clouds and reach the skin.
When your skin's been exposed to too many of these rays, you get what's known as a
Some people get a sunburn faster than others because of their coloring. If you
have blond or red hair, light-colored skin, and light-colored eyes, you'll tend to
get a sunburn more quickly than someone with dark eyes and skin. That's because you
have less melanin
(say: MEL-uh-nun). Melanin is a chemical in the skin that protects it from sun damage
by reflecting and absorbing UV rays. People with darker skin have more melanin, but
even if you have dark hair, dark eyes, or darker-toned skin, you can still get a sunburn.
It will just take a little bit longer.
Sunburns look bad and feel worse. They can cause blisters on your skin. They can
keep you inside feeling sore when everyone else is outside having fun. They increase
your chance of getting wrinkly when you get older. And worst of all, they can lead
to skin cancer when you
are an adult. Because getting wrinkles and getting sick don't happen right away, they
can seem like things that could never happen to you. But you still need to be careful.
You don't need to hide from the sun completely. But you should take these two steps:
Always wear sunscreen.
Take breaks from the sun often by going indoors or moving into the shade.
These steps are especially important between 10 a.m. (in the morning) and
4 p.m. (in the afternoon), when the sun's rays are strongest.
Use a sunscreen with an SPF rating of 30 or higher. Put on sunscreen 15 to 20 minutes
before going out in the sun. The letters SPF stand for sun protection factor, and
the number rating tells you how much longer you can stay in the sun without getting
But this isn't always true, so reapply sunscreen at least every 2 hours, just to
be safe. Do this more often if you've been swimming or sweating a lot — even
if the sunscreen is waterproof. And remember that you can get sunburned more quickly
when you're swimming or boating because the reflection from the water makes the sun's
Be sure to put sunscreen all over your body. This includes some places you might
not think of, like the tops of your ears, the back of your neck, the part in your
hair, your face, and the tops of your feet. You may need some help reaching the back
of your body so ask your parents or friends to give you a hand. If you want to block
the sun's rays, wear clothing that you can't see your hand through. You may still
get burned through more sheer fabrics. Wear a baseball cap or other fun hat to block
your face from the sun.
Don't forget that your eyes need protection from ultraviolet rays, too. Always
wear sunglasses in the sun, and make sure they have a label saying that they block
Drinking water is an
important part of staying healthy, especially when it's hot outside. When you're sweating, you lose
water that your body needs to work properly. And if you're playing a sport or
running around in the sun, you lose even more water, because you sweat that much more.
So drink up and don't wait until you're thirsty — drinking before you feel
thirsty helps keep the water level in your body from dropping too low (dehydration)
when it's hot or you're sweating a lot with exercise. If you forget and suddenly feel
thirsty, start drinking then. There are lots of cool-looking water bottles around,
so get one you really like, fill it up, and drink up!
Got That Hot Feeling?
If you're out in the hot sun or you're exercising on a hot day, it's easy to get
heat exhaustion. Kids get heat exhaustion when their bodies can't
cool themselves fast enough. A kid with heat exhaustion might feel overheated, tired,
Heat exhaustion can come on suddenly. A person may just collapse when playing soccer
or tennis, for example. It can leave someone feeling really tired after it happens.
Heat stroke is a more serious heat-related illness and can cause someone to stop
sweating; to have red, hot skin; and to have a high temperature. The person might
become uncoordinated, confused, or even lose consciousness. It requires emergency
Be sure to tell an adult if you're hot and you have a headache or feel dizzy or
nauseated (like you're going to throw up). The grown-up will want to get you out of
the sun, give you liquids to drink, and take you to a doctor, if necessary.
The good news is that the sun doesn't have to be your enemy if you wear your sunscreen,
drink your water, and take breaks when you start to feel too hot. And don't forget
your sunglasses. Not only do they protect your eyes from the sun, they make you look