As the summer months approach, it’s more important than ever to protect yourself from the sun’s harmful rays.

This article will guide you through essential sun safety practices, including the updated “Slip, Slop, Slap, Seek, Slide” approach from the Cancer Council’s SunSmart program. You’ll learn about the UV index, the risks associated with sun exposure, and practical tips for staying safe whether you’re working outdoors or enjoying a lunchtime break. Additionally, we’ll provide advice on keeping cool during heatwaves and what to do if you’re working alone or traveling.

Climate change and increasing heatwaves

Understanding and adopting sun safety practices is crucial for US citizens due to the increasing frequency and intensity of heatwaves linked to climate change. These practices help prevent skin cancer, heat exhaustion, and other health risks associated with prolonged sun exposure. With nearly 90% of melanoma cases preventable through proper sun protection, staying informed about effective strategies will help you to enjoy a safer and healthier summer.

Slip, Slop, Slap, Seek, Slide

The “Slip, Slop, Slap” slogan has been a cornerstone of sun safety in Australia, championed by the Cancer Council’s SunSmart program. This catchy phrase has significantly influenced public attitudes and behaviors toward sun protection over the past two decades. In 2007, the campaign evolved to include “Seek” and “Slide,” emphasizing the importance of seeking shade and wearing wraparound sunglasses to combat sun damage.

As summer approaches, it’s crucial to remember these 5 S’s, especially for those working from home who might be tempted to work outdoors. And don’t forget—you can still get sunburned even on cloudy days!

Understanding the UV Index and sunburn risk

In the United States, the primary cause of skin cancer is excessive exposure to UV radiation from the sun. Alarmingly, nearly 90% of melanoma cases could be prevented with proper sun safety practices. Although clouds can block some UV rays, over 90% of them can penetrate through, causing sunburn.

In the United States, skin cancer is a significant health concern, primarily caused by excessive exposure to UV radiation from the sun. According to the CDC, skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the U.S., with nearly 90% of nonmelanoma skin cancers associated with UV radiation exposure.

Moreover, an alarming statistic from the CDC indicates that over 90% of melanomas, the deadliest form of skin cancer, could potentially be prevented through proper sun safety practices. Even on cloudy days, over 90% of UV rays can penetrate the clouds, leading to sunburn and increasing the risk of skin cancer.​ 

While anyone can suffer from sunburn or develop skin cancer, certain individuals are at higher risk, such as those with fair skin, numerous moles or freckles, or a family history of skin cancer. The sun’s UV rays are potent enough to cause skin damage from mid-March to mid-October, peaking between 11am and 3pm.

The UV index is a valuable tool for gauging the sun’s strength. A UV index of 3 (moderate) or higher means the sun’s rays are strong enough to harm your skin, particularly if you burn easily. You can check the UV index on weather apps, including those by the National Weather Service and the Environmental Protection Agency.

Tips for sun safety

If you work outside all day, follow these guidelines to protect yourself:

  • Wear sunscreen: Use at least SPF30 with both UVA and UVB protection. Apply 30 minutes before going outside and reapply just before heading out. Cover all exposed skin liberally and frequently.
  • Cover up: Opt for loose clothing, long sleeves, and a wide-brimmed hat to shade your face, neck, and ears, especially between 11am and 3pm.
  • Wear sunglasses: Choose sunglasses with appropriate UV protection.
  • Stay hydrated: Drink plenty of water throughout the day.

During lunchtime breaks:

  • Reapply sunscreen: Use at least SPF30 sunscreen 15 minutes before going outside.
  • Wear protective clothing: Don a wide-brimmed hat and loose clothing that covers your shoulders.
  • Seek shade: Sit in the shade to reduce direct sun exposure.
  • Stay hydrated: Drink plenty of water.

SPF and UV radiation: What you need to know

  • SPF (Sun Protection Factor): Measures the level of UVB protection.
  • UV (Ultraviolet Radiation): Emitted by the sun, it includes:
    • UVA: Causes skin aging.
    • UVB: Causes skin burning.

Keeping cool during a heatwave

Heatwaves bring their own set of risks, including dehydration, overheating, heat exhaustion, and heatstroke. The US has experienced severe heatwaves in recent weeks, underscoring the need for effective strategies to stay cool. Here’s how to stay cool:

At home or in the office:

  • Open windows: If safe, open windows to improve ventilation.
  • Close curtains/blinds: Block out the sun’s direct rays.
  • Stay hydrated: Drink plenty of water and avoid alcohol.
  • Sun protection: When going outside, stay in the shade, wear sunscreen, and carry water.
  • Avoid peak heat: Refrain from exercising during the hottest parts of the day.
  • Wear loose clothing: Choose comfortable, loose-fitting attire.
  • Take breaks: Avoid sitting for long periods; take regular breaks.
  • Cool towels: Use a wet towel or scarf on the back of your neck.
  • Splash water: Splash water on your face to cool down.

For lone workers or travelers:

  • Team check-ins: Regularly check in with your team.
  • Safe parking: Park in shady areas if possible.
  • Use air conditioning: Use car air conditioning or open windows (note this is less fuel-efficient).
  • Carry water: Always have water with you when traveling.


For more information and tips on staying safe in the sun and keeping cool during hot weather, check out these resources:

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