Madison, WI,
17:21 PM

Don’t Get Burned This Summer

Protect yourself and your family from harmful effects of the sun.


Summer means outside time with picnics, camping, boating – even yard work. All that extra time outdoors though, exposes you to potentially harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun. These rays can damage your skin in as little as 15 minutes.

Think you’re sun-savvy? Take this quiz to test whether you know how to protect yourself from the sun’s harmful effects.

False. According to the Centers for Disease Control, sunscreen has a shelf life of up to three years – less if it’s been exposed to high temperatures. Always shake the bottle to fully mix the ingredients.

False: According to the American Cancer Society, SPF 15 sunscreens filter out about 93 percent of ultraviolet "B" (UVB) rays, while SPF 30 filters out about 97 percent. An SPF 100 filters about 99 percent. The higher the SPF rating, the smaller the difference. However, no sunscreen provides 100 percent protection.

False: According to the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) up to 80 percent of the sun's UV rays get through clouds on an overcast day.

Wrong: According to the CDC, between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. is the most hazardous for UV exposure.

Wrong. According to the American Cancer Society, tanning lamps give out UVA and usually UVB rays as well. Both ultraviolet "A" (UVA) and UVB rays can cause long-term skin damage and can contribute to skin cancer.


  1. True or False: Unused sunscreen should be thrown out after a year.
  2. True or False: A sunscreen with a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) rating of 30 is twice as good as an SPF of 15.
  3. True or False: Protection from the sun isn’t necessary on a cloudy day.
  4. The sun's rays are most harmful only at noon, right?
  5. I’ll use a tanning bed instead of the sun. These are OK, right?

Want to have fun in the sun while reducing the risks associated with exposure to UV rays? These suggestions can help.

Protect yourself

If it’s cool out, don’t be fooled. People often get sunburned in cooler weather because they don’t think about protecting themselves if it’s not hot. Even when swimming, UV rays can reach below the water’s surface to give you a burn.

Be especially careful if you have:

  • pale skin
  • blond, red, or light brown hair
  • been treated for skin cancer
  • a family member who's had skin cancer

Fortunately, you don’t have to avoid the sun completely. Here are some pointers to help protect yourself and your family.

Use sunscreen

Apply about 20 minutes before going outside. Sunscreen should have an SPF of at least 15 and provide protection from both UVA and UVB rays. A higher SPF number means more UVB protection (UVB rays are the main cause of sunburn). Reapply sunscreen every two hours and after swimming or sweating. Don’t forget sensitive spots like the tops of the ears, nose and feet. For those who don’t have much hair, don’t forget the top of your head!

Wear protective clothing

A long-sleeved shirt, pants, a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses offer great protection from the sun. Look for hats and clothing made of tightly woven materials. If you can see light through the fabric, UV rays can get through, too.


Wear sunglasses that block UV “A” and “B” rays. Wrap-around styles give the most protection.


The sun’s rays are strongest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Find shade or go inside if possible.

Be careful around water and sand

These reflect the sun and can actually double UV exposure.

Be careful with medications

Some prescription and over-the-counter drugs can increase your sensitivity to sun exposure and increase the risk of sunburn. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist about any medications you take.

Protect children

Children tend to spend more time outdoors and burn more easily. Be sure your child is wearing sunscreen or protective clothing. If your child burns easily, be extra careful to cover up, limit exposure and apply sunscreen.

If you’re concerned about the day-to-day intensity of the sun, the Environmental Protection Agency provides a no cost UV index by ZIP code that’s updated daily.

Check out these related resources:

Prevent Heat Stroke