Staying safe on a high UV index day

NOW: Staying safe on a high UV index day

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On sunny days like today, you might hear a lot about the UV index - but what is it? Well it's a number ranging from 1 to 11+ that’s calculated by predicting the intensity of ultraviolet radiation from the sun throughout the day.

There are 3 different kinds of UV radiation - UVA, UVB, and UVC. UVA rays have the longest wavelength of all the different kinds of UV radiation and UVC rays have the shortest wavelength. The shorter the wavelength of radiation, the higher energy the ray and the more harmful it is to us.

So, UVC radiation is the most dangerous to humans, but this type of radiation doesn't reach the Earth's surface since it gets stopped in our stratosphere by the ozone layer.

If someone were to be exposed to UVC radiation either by a lamp or laser, they could suffer severe burns and even injuries to their eyes. Looking directly at UVC radiation even for a short amount of time can result in severe eye pain and short-term vision loss.

The 2 other types of ultraviolet radiation that you're more likely to encounter are UVA and UVB radiation.

UVA rays have the longest wavelength of all the UV radiation types and can reach down to the middle layer of your skin or the dermis. UVB rays have a wavelength somewhere in the middle of UVA and UVC rays and can only reach the top layer of your skin or the epidermis.

Both UVA and UVB rays can be harmful and cause damage to your skin, so it's very important to make sure that you're wearing sunscreen if you're going to have prolonged exposure to any ultraviolet rays.

One of the initial effects you'll see from UV damage would be sunburn, but premature aging and skin cancer can also develop as the result of prolonged exposure to ultraviolet radiation. One of the best ways to protect yourself against these harmful rays is to use sunscreen - but what kind of sunscreen?

With so many different kinds of sunscreen, it can be hard to know which is the best for you and your family. There are many different factors that go into picking the right sunscreen and one that you've probably heard about would be SPF.

SPF, or sun protection factor, is a measure of how well sunscreen can protect against UVB rays. Different sunscreens are given different SPF numbers based on how well they can do this. The number is decided based on how many UVB rays are blocked by a sunscreen.

SPF 15 blocks 93% of UBV rays, SPF 30 blocks 97%, and SPF 50 blocks 98%. Once you get to higher SPF levels, the level of protection levels out, so most people don’t need much higher than SPF 30 or 50.

SPF can also be used to determine how long it would take someone to burn in the sun. For example, if someone typically burns in 10 minutes, a sunscreen with an SPF of 30 will protect them from burning for approximately 30 times as long as they would without sunscreen or 300 minutes.

This time also depends on a variety of factors such as how much sunscreen you use and your skin tone and type, but SPF can give you a general idea of what SPF level would be best for you.

Many people may brush off a sunburn as nothing to worry about, but prolonged exposure to harmful ultraviolet radiation can lead to some serious impacts down the road.

Our UV index today is looking to be around 9 which is considered to be very high. The time of day with the highest UV index is during the early afternoon.

With such a high UV index, it is very important to make sure you’re wearing sunscreen and limiting your time in the sun. Over the next couple of days, we'll still be seeing high UV index values.

If you want to see how sunscreen protects against UV rays for yourself, you can try this fun experiment at home. All you'll need is some construction paper, plastic wrap, and of course - sunscreen!

You'll want to have two sheets of construction paper for this experiment for your variable and control, it can be helpful to label them too. Take one piece of paper and lay some plastic wrap over it, then you'll put down some sunscreen on the plastic wrap so the construction paper stays dry. Make sure to leave the other paper alone so you can compare how much of a difference sunscreen truly makes.

For a bit of summer learning, maybe have your kids write down their guesses on what they think will happen to both pieces of paper.

Leave your two pieces of paper out in a sunny spot for a couple of hours, and when you come back, your piece of paper without sunscreen should be lighter. This will show how sunscreen protected your paper against the sun’s rays by keeping it closer to the original color.

If you want to go even further, you can get a couple of different sunscreens with varying SPF's to see the difference between protection from different SPF values as well.

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