Summer sunshine is here, and with it all the benefits and risks of the sun’s rays. How can you make the most of the summer sunshine safely?

We hear a lot about the dangers of too much sun, which is an important topic we’ll cover in a moment. But did you know that small amounts of the sun’s rays are good for us? Sun gives us vitamin D that absorbs calcium, which your body needs to build and maintain healthy bones. Ultra Violet (UV) rays from the sun can also help treat some health conditions like eczema, psoriasis, rickets or jaundice.

Too much sun, however, allows the UV rays to reach the inner layers of the skin, resulting in sunburn. Signs of sunburn include:

Redness. Your skin turns red due to an increase in blood flow. It can happen right away or over time.

Hot skin. You also can get goose bumps or chills.

Pain

Itchy or tight skin

Blisters

Dehydration

Peeling. This is your body’s way of shedding the dead cells.

Sunburn can cause short-term discomfort and pain, and too much sun exposure can increase your risk for a greater long-term concern: skin cancer. Even if you don’t burn, the exposure over time increases your risk — so being sun smart is important for everyone.

We are all at risk of the effects of sun exposure, no matter our age or skin color. The risk, however, increases with the amount of time in the sun and the depth of exposure. You are also at greater risk if you have fair skin or moles.

There are ways to prevent the harmful effects of sun exposure. Consider these guidelines as recommended by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA):

Use sunscreen whenever outdoors. It should have a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15 and say “broad-spectrum” on the label.

Reapply sunscreen at least every two hours, or more often when sweating or swimming.

Protect your eyes with sunglasses that provide UV protection.

Cover up with wide-brimmed hats and long-sleeved shirts and pants. It’s particularly important to be sure children and babies are covered up.

Try to avoid exposure to the sun as much as possible between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.

Don’t use tanning beds.

There are other factors to keep in mind in regard to sun exposure. Some medicines can make you more sensitive to the sun and its UV rays. Check with your healthcare provider or pharmacist for side effects.

The sun’s rays also reflect off certain surfaces, such as water, concrete, sand and snow. Keep your location and the weather conditions in mind when planning activities. You can get a sunburn while skiing and even when it’s cloudy.

If you have questions about sun exposure or the effects on your skin, don’t hesitate to ask your provider. Have a fun and sun-safe summer!

Amy Recla, APNP, works at Bellin Health Marinette.