July is UV Safety Month
Nashville, TN – As Tennesseans head outdoors to enjoy sunny summer days, the Department of Health reminds everyone to take precautions to protect themselves from the sun’s damaging ultraviolet rays.
TDOH is joining the national observance of UV Safety Month this July. This health observance was created by the American Academy of Ophthalmology to educate people about the need to protect their eyes from the harmful effects of the sun’s ultraviolet rays.
“Most people are familiar with the need to use sunscreen to protect skin from sunburn and skin cancer, but they may not know ultraviolet rays can also damage our eyes,” said Health Commissioner Susan R. Cooper, MSN, RN. “We want to make people aware of simple steps that can help keep us safe from these health problems.”
There are two types of ultraviolet rays, commonly known as UV-A and UV-B. These invisible, high energy rays from the sun can damage skin and eyes. Using protective measures against UV rays is especially important during summer months, when the level of ultraviolet radiation is three times greater than in winter.
“Prolonged exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet rays without protection can cause eye conditions that can lead to vision loss, such as cataracts and age-related macular degeneration,” said State Epidemiologist Tim F. Jones, MD.
Sunglasses and a wide-brimmed hat are the best defense system to protect your eyes against sunlight and its harmful UV rays. To be effective, both should be worn every time you’re outside for prolonged periods of time, even when skies are overcast.
Sunglasses should be designed to block 99 to 100 percent of the UV-A and UV-B rays. The ability to block UV light is not dependent on the darkness of sunglass lenses, and price is not indicative of the level of UV protection. Consumers can check sunglass labels for information about the amount of UV protection the glasses offer.
As with skin, eyes should be protected from damage from repeated sun exposure over time, as well as acute damage that can be caused by a single day in the sun. Excessive exposure to ultraviolet light reflected off sand, snow, water or pavement can burn the eye’s surface. While eye surface burns usually disappear within a couple of days, they can lead to further complications later in life.
The following tips can help people protect their eyes from sun damage:
- Try to avoid being out in the sun from 10:00am to 4:00pm. UV rays are strongest and do the most damage during midday hours.
- Wear a wide-brimmed hat to shade your face.
- Wear sunglasses that wrap around and block as close to 100 percent
of both UV-A and UV-B rays as possible.
- Don’t be fooled by clouds: The sun’s rays can pass through haze and thin clouds. Sun damage to eyes can occur any time during the year, not just in the summer.
To learn more about protecting your eyes from the sun, visit the American Academy of Ophthalmology website at
www.geteyesmart.org/eyesmart/living/sun.cfm, or the website for Prevent Blindness America at www.preventblindness.org/uv/.