UV Safety: 12 Ways to Remain Safe From the UV Rays of the Sun
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With summer can come more time for the outdoors. Help your kids learn what they need to know to remain healthy by getting adequate protection from UV rays of the sun.
- Know the potential health effects of ultraviolet (UV) rays: As the Environmental Protection Agency reports, too much exposure to UV radiation can cause serious health problems, such as skin cancer, cataracts, and immune system suppression. According to the Centers for Disease Control, just a few serious sunburns can increase a kid’s risk of skin cancer later in life. Their skin needs protection from the sun’s harmful UV rays whenever they’re outdoors. Ask your kids to think of ways they can enjoy the outdoors without overexposure.
- Make a sun protection kit: Together with your kids, put sunglasses, hat, sunscreen, and cover-up in a bag. Have your kids pick a location in the house where they can keep the bag handy.
- Take a sun safety quiz: Test your knowledge of sun protection, and see how you do.
- Learn more about what UV is: Ask your kids what they know about UV light waves. Light is emitted in different wavelengths, and UV light has shorter wavelengths than the light we see. Make sure kids know that we can’t see UV waves, but we can see the effects of overexposure in such forms as sunburn.
- Find out how the ozone layer is associated with UV: Ask your kids if they have ever heard the term “ozone layer” and especially associated with UV. That’s because ozone, a natural gas, can be found high up in the sky and forms a shield against UV light. But some UV light passes through and too much can mean sunburn.
- Have your kids follow the Shadow Rule: According to AirNow, if your shadow is taller than you are (in the early morning and late afternoon), you’re probably getting less UV exposure; and if your shadow is shorter than you are (around midday), you are getting higher levels of UV radiation—you should seek shade and protect your skin and eyes. For younger kids, read the poem “My Shadow” together as a precursor to demonstrating the Shadow Rule.
- Discover how sunscreen works Knowing how sunscreen works may promote kids’ use. Sunscreen typically has ingredients to either reflect UV waves, or absorb and let off as heat. Set up a simple experiment to find out how sunscreen counteracts the effects of the sun.
- Learn about the UV index: Scientists have developed a UV index to help people protect themselves from harmful ultraviolet waves. Let your kids know that an index can be a measurement, with different numbers or values, associated with different levels.
- Use the Air Quality Index (AQI): The purpose of the AQI is to help you understand what local air quality means to your health. The AQI is divided into six levels of health concern, with different levels numbered at different values and various colors indicating each range. Ask your kids if they know what it means when they hear on the news that it is a “code orange” day.
Go to an air quality index page, and with your kids type in your zip code and see what your AQI is on any given day. Have your kids click on your state, and check out the AQI index for various regions of the state. Ask kids how they might act accordingly based on the AQI for any given day.
- Try a community-related poster project to raise awareness: Help your kids raise not only their own awareness, but awareness of others in the neighborhood, by organizing a poster project focused on UV safety. See if your local library or community center could sponsor the effort.
- Make sun tea: Help kids learn that the sun is a powerful energy source by making sun tea. Leave the tea out in the sun for a brief period to show kids how even a few minutes of the sun’s energy is enough to warm the water and produce tea.
- Make a sundial: Help kids increase their awareness of the sun, by having them make a sundial with readily available materials, such as a shoebox and paper plate. Put the dial out on your patio, yard, balcony, or in the park at different times of the day. Help kids remember to put on their protection against the sun before going out! Try this in conjunction with the activity on the Shadow Rule (see activity no. 6).
This feature is based on a blog post that originally appeared on free.ed.gov, a site that is now retired. Please visit ed.gov/FREE for more information.
Last Modified: 12/01/2015