Winter Sun Protection (With Infographic)

While much of the country is under freeze conditions, winter weather in South Florida is generally comfortable and bright with lots of sunshine and refreshing breezes. But lower tropical temperatures don’t equate to a lower risk of sunburn, even during winter.

South Florida residents and visitors alike can get a false sense of relief from the sun when air temperatures are cooler and the days are shorter. Experts caution that it’s just as important to protect skin from the sun during the winter months as it is during other times of the year.

Water and sun, appealing characteristics that attract people to Florida during the winter, are also two of the most common culprits of sunburned skin. Both are highly reflective surfaces that can increase the amount of damage the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays have on unprotected skin. The area’s location in relation to the equator also contributes to the effects of winter sun. On an average winter day in Miami, for example, the UV index is moderate, meaning a fair amount of skin-damaging radiation is present.

Dermatologist Alysa Herman, M.D., a skin cancer surgeon affiliated with Baptist Health South Florida, says that even infrequent but intense exposure to the sun, the kind that sometimes leads to sunburn, can increase a person’s risk for melanoma, the most advanced stage of skin cancer.

“There’s no question that sun exposure plays a role,” she said.

According to the most recent research, about 10,000 people die each year in the U.S. from melanoma, the most advanced type of skin cancer. As many as 90 percent of melanomas are estimated to be caused by UV exposure, which is the most preventable cause of skin cancer, according to the 2014 U.S. Surgeon General’s Call to Action for prevention.

Winter Sun Safety for Kids

Children also need to heed warnings of winter sun exposure. Winter school breaks often mean more outside playtime in the sun. And while most melanoma cases are diagnosed in adults, it’s one of the most common types of cancer among U.S. adolescents and young adults, according to a Surgeon General’s reporton skin cancer prevention.

Parents should protect their kids’ skin from sunburn with a broad-spectrum sunscreen of at least SPF 30,  and they should reapply after swimming or sweating, he says. If a child does get a sunburn, Fernando Mendoza, M.D., medical director of Baptist Children’s Hospital Emergency Center, recommends applying a cool cloth to the skin and advises against using “home remedies” — such as applying butter or meat tenderizer.

Here are more reasons why it’s important to protect skin from the sun during winter:

Infographic by Irina de Souza

Healthcare that Cares

With internationally renowned centers of excellence, 12 hospitals, more than 27,000 employees, 4,000 physicians and 200 outpatient centers, urgent care facilities and physician practices spanning across Miami-Dade, Monroe, Broward and Palm Beach counties, Baptist Health is an anchor institution of the South Florida communities we serve.

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