Temperatures are really starting to heat up outside, the days are getting longer, and it's time to do more fun stuff outdoors! If you're going to be outside in the hot sun, you will need to take precautions. Here's what you can do.

Avoid getting burned
Although the sun is really hot, it does some really cool things for us. For starters, it can keep us warm. It helps plants, like flowers, to grow. The sun also may be our best source for Vitamin D, which helps us to absorb calcium into our bodies for stronger bones and teeth.

The sun does all of these things by sending down light, which includes ultraviolet rays (which are invisible and called UV rays). Some UV rays are able to go through the air and clouds and into our skin. When too many of these UV rays penetrate our skin, you will get a sunburn. Due to the pigmentation in one's skin, some people will burn more quickly than others. People who have red or blond hair, have light-colored skin with light-colored eyes, will sunburn more quickly than people who have dark hair and dark-colored eyes. The reason is because they have less melanin. Melanin is a chemical in your skin that's job is to protect you from the sun's damage, reflecting and absorbing UV rays. Those people who have darker skin will have more melanin in their body, though they can still get a sunburn, just not as quickly.

Sunburns are painful, look bad, and may cause blisters on your skin. They can sideline you from outdoor fun when everyone else is outside having fun. Another concern is sunburns increases your chances of getting all wrinkly as you get older, and worst of all, they can lead to skin cancer. But, because it may be years before the symptoms appear, you may not think that it could happen to you, and it can, so you need to be mindful of the sun.

Prime time
There's no need to completely avoid the sun, or wrap up in a blanket to keep protected. But, you should do these two things to help yourself safe:

  • Always wear sunscreen
  • Don't be in the sun for long periods of time. Take breaks, whether it's going inside somewhere or simply moving to a shaded area.

Remembering to do these two things are particularly important between 10:00 am until at least 4:00 pm, the period of time of the day when the sun's rays are most powerful and dangerous.

Always use a sunscreen with a SPF (sun protection factor) number of at least 30. The higher the number, the longer the protection (provided you put enough on and keep it on). It's best to put the sunscreen on at least 15-20 minutes before you go out into the sun. When possible, it's also better to apply sunscreen on when you're not in direct sunlight.

Reapplying sunscreen is recommended at least every two hours. You should reapply more often if you are swimming, sweating, or are involved in water activities, even if the sunscreen you are using is water or sweat-resistant. Keep in mind that when you are around water, your chances increase of getting a sunburn because the water magnifies the sun's rays.

Make sure to cover your whole body when you apply sunscreen, including places you might not think to cover like the tops of your ears, back of your neck, and the tops of your feet. You will need to recruit a little assistance to get your back covered, including under the straps of your swimwear. Speaking of swimwear, it will protect you better if you choose apparel that you can not see your hand through. Thinner, more sheer fabrics may allow you to get a sunburn.

Let's not forget to protect your eyes from the UV rays as well. You should always wear sunglasses that can block UV rays when you are outside in the bright sun.

Keep hydrated!
Staying hydrated is very important to your overall health, and this is especially true while you are outside in the hot sun. As you sweat, your body is losing water that it needs to function. And, if you're active under the hot sun, you will lose even more water, sweating away much needed water.

Don't wait until you feel thirsty to hydrate yourself. Drink up. When you drink fluids before you feel thirsty, it helps to keep your body's water level at a safe level. If you aren't drinking water when you start to feel thirsty, don't ignore your thirst, drink! Using a water bottle helps you to keep track of just how much (or little) water you have drank. Remember, you will need to drink more water outside then when you are inside.

Are you feeling hot?
If you're exercising outside in the hot sun it can be easier than you think to get heat exhaustion. Children, especially, get heat exhaustion when their little bodies can't cool themselves down quickly enough. Signs that a child has heat exhaustion include being fatigued, weak, and overheated (hot).

Heat exhaustion can happen rather quickly. An individual may just suddenly collapse. It can leave them feeling fatigued for several days afterward.

A more serious heat-related illness is heat stroke. Some of the major symptoms are red, hot (to the touch) skin, lack of sweat, and a high temperature. This individual might also be confused, uncoordinated, and may even lose consciousness, which would require emergency medical assistance.

Make sure that you share with an adult if you think that you feel abnormally hot, with a headache, dizziness, and/or nausea (feel like vomiting). You will need to get out of the sun immediately and start consuming liquids, and seek medical attention, if needed.

The wonderful news about the sun is that if you wear sunscreen, drink water frequently, take breaks when you start to feel too warm, it can be your friend and not your enemy. So, don't forget those cool, styling UV protecting sunglasses either!