Can I get sun damage in the fall and winter? The bad news is, yes, you can! The good news is that it can take a bit longer. So this means more time to be out and still be safe. However, you still can’t ignore the length of time you have been out, even though it is fall or winter.
Ultraviolet Ray Index
How long do you have to be outside in the sun without sunscreen or sun blocking clothing to get sun damage?
For those of us who are very fair-skinned: about 20 minutes will be as long as you can be out and not start to burn when the UV index is 0 – 2.
Darker-skinned people are considered safe for up to 45 minutes, with an index of 3-4.
Source: EPA UV Index
Are UV Rays Weaker In Fall And Winter
Yes, they are weaker, but can not be ignored. You may think because it is cooler your skin will be safe from sunburn. Don’t let your protection lapse, stay with safe sun times, even in fall and winter.
When the UV Index rates between 2 and 7 your skin is facing a moderate risk of damage from too much sun.
UV index ratings of 8 to 11 indicate very high risk, and this means there is the need to protect your skin as well as spend very little time in the direct sun.
When summer heats up, most folks look at the temperature. But a better indicator is the “heat index” which also considers humidity. Heat is the No. 1 weather-related killer in the United States. Find out why the heat index is all about, and why it matters.
What Is The Heat Index?
When summer gets going and the temperature starts heating up, most folks look at the temperature.
A better indicator is a tool known as the “heat index.” The heat index also uses humidity as a part of the formula to result in the actual numbers in the heat index. The heat may register in at 89* with a relative humidity of 70%. This will make it feel like 103* degrees to your body.
With the combination of a high temperature and high humidity, you will find there is a limit to how well your body can cool itself. The humidity will cause your body to be slower to cool itself with evaporation. This puts you in the danger zone quickly.
Wearing sun blocking clothing can be the easiest way for most of us to stay safe in the sun. Unfortunately, we are all liking tank tops and shorts in the sun. Even our kids need to get in the habit of staying sun-safe.
It is to your advantage to stay aware of the heat index and how the humidity can sneak up on you, increasing the danger of the heat being more than your body can safely handle. Even at lower temperatures, the humidity can send you to the danger zone quickly.
In the fall we have occasional high humidity spans of weather. You may think that it is cool enough to be safe, but you can get in trouble with a sunburn or heatstroke with extreme humidity.
When the Heat Index is high, drink plenty of water and spend the midday hours someplace cool! Here is more information on the heat index from The Farmers Alamac that will explain more if you are interested.
The Shadow Rule
Follow the EPA’s Shadow Rule to estimate how much UV radiation you are being exposed to:
- If your shadow is longer than you are tall, your UV exposure is lower.
- If your shadow is shorter than you are tall, your UV exposure is higher and you should take necessary precautions.
The shadow rule is a good rule to teach your kids as they become old enough to be out without you there. If they see a very short shadow or no shadow at all, that means they need to go inside or get in the shade.
This is a dangerous time, summer or winter. In the fall and winter, the heat of the direct sun can feel good on your skin, just make sure you have good sunscreen on any skin the sun reaches. Otherwise, you will need a layer of sun blocking clothing between you and the sun.
Do I Need To Drink Water In The Fall And Winter?
Any time you are outdoors and busy working or playing, drinking fluids is important. Often we forget when it isn’t so hot, we just don’t think about drinking water. You are using the water in your body, and it must be replaced for your skin to stay safe.
You will enjoy your time outside if your energy levels stay up. If you seem to tire easily, make sure you drink enough fluids. This can help, almost immediately.
- Don’t wait until you are thirsty to drink. Grab a bottle of water and take it outside with you to make sure you have access to water as your body needs it. Having a way to measure how much water you drink throughout the day is important. You need to know that you are getting enough water, every day.
- Salt pellets can help keep your body’s system with using the water you drink, sometimes. However, not just for every day unless advised by your physician. Athletes often lose enough water through sweating that the salt will be needed to keep mineral levels in a good spot. Even they won’t need salt when not at practice or playing.
- Then if you are considered a senior citizen, keeping your body hydrated is super important. Even in the fall and winter when they are sweating very little. As we age, older bodies are in danger of releasing too much fluid in their natural functions. This can cause confusion and disorientation easily. Liquids are important to this age group, as is being safe from the sun, even in the fall and winter time.
So, fall and winter time can mean fun in the sun, but to stay healthy and reduce our skin cancer risks, some care must be used.
How Long Do You Have To Be Outside To Get Sun Damage?
What are your risk factors? The timelines given in the chart earlier in this article should help determine the safe time for you.
Stay aware of how much time you are staying in the sun. Make sure to keep your skin covered, and protected using sunscreen and sun blocking clothing.
Remembering to stay hydrated is important as well. When fluid levels drop in your body, your system can’t protect you as well. Without enough fluids, the natural sun’s protection of melanin will be hampered. You may not have the fluids present in your blood system to send the needed protection around where it needs to go.
Awareness will help you protect your skin, as well as avoid skin cancer.
Sami’s Take On Can I Get Sun Damage In The Fall And Winter
The facts are there.
So are the tools to work with.
Skin protection from the sun is imperative to avoid skin cancer. The statics tell us that allowing our skin to be exposed to the sun is dangerous. So we have to be careful, even in the fall and winter. Just because the heat is gone does not mean the danger is past.
Protecting our skin is a year-round effort. Just like the advice to not smoke, even when it seems everyone else is, ignoring skin safety is a sure way for skin cancer to enter your life. In fact, there are more skin cancer deaths in the US than from smoking.
Wearing sunscreen and sun blocking clothing is just a healthy lifestyle practice. Will you make some changes for healthier skin? A skin cancer-free life?
Have you had your first encounter with skin cancer? What have you changed? If so, can you share what works for you? We are all on a fact-finding trip for a healthier skin cancer-free life.