How do I protect myself? 

Sunglasses

Many scientific studies indicate that prolonged sun exposure can damage your eyes and lead to cataracts, damage to your retinas and growths on your eye (including cancer). It is therefore recommended that you wear 95% and above UV-absorbent sunglasses and a wide brim hat when you are exposed to the sun for long periods of time.  

Things to consider when choosing sunglasses: 

  • Look for sunglasses that block 95-100% of all UV light.  
  • The colour and degree of darkness of a lens TELLS YOU NOTHING ABOUT THE LENSES UV PROTECTION.  Be sure and check!
  • Mirror finishes do not fully protect against UV rays. Transition lenses may not be appropriate for working. 

Did you know…?

If you see a label that says “UV absorption up to 400 nm” this means the same as “100% UV absorption”. No lens is truly unbreakable, but plastic lenses are less likely to shatter when hit by an object (ball, stone etc.)  Polarized lenses work to cut reflective glare from surfaces such as pavement, water, and or snow.  These types of lenses will be particularly useful for driving, fishing etc. Studies have shown that enough UV rays enter around normal frames to damage the eye.  In order to protect your eyes choose a wrap around style or those with side shields to protect your eyes from all angles.  

Ultraviolet Radiation

There are two types of harmful rays, UVA and UVB rays.  Together, these rays are the primary cause of sunburn and skin cancer.  Exposure to UVA and UVB rays can suppress the immune system.  Since your skin is your first line of defense, help protect yourself by applying sunscreen and wearing protective apparel every time you go outside!

Photosensitizing Drugs & Conditions

There are certain drugs that make your skin and eyes more sensitive to light or make you more susceptible to harm from the sun/heat.  

These include:

  • Some pain killer
  • Diuretics (“water pills”
  • Antibiotics
  • Blood pressure medication
  • Antihistamine
  • Some herbal remedies

There are also certain diseases, like lupus that can make you more sensitive to the sun.  It is your responsibility to check with your doctor and pharmacist.

Sunburn

What this looks like?

  • Red, painful, or blistering and peeling skin

How do I treat it?

  • If the skin blisters, seek medical aid
  • Use skin lotions (avoid anesthetics and products that end in “caine”) and work in shade if possible
  • Aspirin may be taken orally to alleviate discomfort and decrease inflammation.

How does sunscreen work?

Sunscreen works by blocking or absorbing ultraviolet light.  All sunscreens have an SPF factor or Sun Protection Factor.  This acts as a multiplying factor.  For example if you would normally be okay in the sun for 10 minutes without  burning/causing damage and you apply an SPF 10, you would be okay in the sun for 100 minutes. 

** When this time runs out you are no longer protected regardless of whether you continue to reapply.

** Important! Sunscreens have expiration dates.  An expired product will not offer proper SPF protection

What is the difference between sunblock and sunscreen ?

  • Sunblock is different than sunscreen.
  • A sunblock will scatter and reflect as well as physically block UV radiation.  (zinc oxide)
  • A sunscreen will absorb the UV rays and prevent penetration through the skin.
  • Both offer adequate protection from the sun’s harmful UV rays!

Tips for applying sunscreen/sunblock

  • Regardless of skin type, a broad spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15 should be used year round.
  • If you know you will be working in the sun for extended hours, apply a sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or greater as higher SPF factors protect for a longer period of time.
  • Apply sunscreen even on cloudy days as 80% of the sun’s harmful UV rays  pass through the clouds.
  • Sunscreen should be applied to dry skin 15-30 minutes BEFORE going outdoors.
  • Apply sunscreen liberally.  One ounce (enough to fill a shot glass) of sunscreen is considered the amount needed to cover the exposed areas.
  • Areas of particular attention are the face especially the nose and lips, ears, hands, behind the knee, back of the neck, hands, feet and arms as these are considered high risk areas and are most often exposed.
  • Sunscreen should be applied every 2 hours or after perspiring heavily since sunscreens rub and wash off.

Deet and Sunscreen/Sunblock

It is safe to use DEET and sunscreen simultaneously to avoid insects when outdoors. However, sunscreens containing DEET should NOT be applied. Instead, apply your sunscreen FIRST followed by a repellent containing DEET.

What is PABA?

  • PABA (Para-amino benzoic acid) is an ingredient (dye) that is found in most sunscreens that absorbs ultraviolet light.
  • PABA allergies are due to its acidic nature.  Those who have sensitive skin should use a PABA-free sunscreen.

What your wearing can influence your exposure.

Most clothing absorbs or reflects UV rays.  White fabric, like loose-knit cotton or wet clothes does not offer much protection. An average white cotton t-shirt offers and SPF between 3 and 9. Clothing that has a tight weave is best at protecting your skin from the sun.  There is also clothing that you can buy from most outdoor stores that is specially treated for sun protection.   

Dehydration

Heavy and prolonged sweating causes the loss of water and electrolytes from the body.  A loss of only 1% of total body water can alter the body’s ability to stay cool. With heavy sweating or prolonged sweating you also loose electrolytes, particularly sodium.  This can seriously threaten the ability of the myocardium (muscle of your heart) to maintain its rhythm.  It can also affect your GI tract and skeletal muscles. 

Do not rely on thirst 

Thirst is not usually sensed until dehydration is already established.  Even people well experienced with heat strain often fail to drink enough water to regain full hydration.

How do I know if I am dehydrated?

  • Checking the colour of your urine is a fast and simple way of assessing hydration status
  • Pale yellow urine usually indicates adequate hydratio
  • Dark yellow urine can indicates a certain level of dehydration
  • How often you have to urinate may also indicate one’s hydration status.

So what should I drink?

Try and drink small amounts of water often.  This will be more effective in keeping you hydrated as opposed to drinking large amounts of water infrequently. 

Workers working in very hot environments for long periods of time may consider drinking a fluid containing electrolytes to replace those lost, like a sports drink, or very lightly salted water (1/4 teaspoon to a quart of water).  You may also consider very lightly salting your food.  

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