What you need to know about UV index

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We are heading towards fall now in West Virginia but that doesn’t mean you can’t get sunburned while enjoying outdoor activates. Lets start by talking about what the UV (ultraviolet) index is, it’s a forecast for the amount of skin damaging UV (ultraviolet) radiation reaches the earth at the time when the sun is highest in the sky (around noon). Although some people may think this goes hand and hand with the hottest time of day, that’s not the case — there is a delay between the sun being at the highest angle and the hottest portion of the day. Depending on the time of year, the lag between the two can be as much as 3 to 4 hours.

The UV index ranges from 0 (at night) all the way up to 15 or 16 (in the tropics). The higher the UV index the higher dose of damaging UV radiation and the shorter amount of time it will take to cause damage to your skin and eyes. Damage done to your skin and eyes can range from a very bad sun burn to skin cancer (Melanoma).

There are some factors that come into play when it comes to just how high the UV index will be on a given day, like elevation, and the amount of clouds on the given day. Let’s break all this down:

Elevation is just like it sounds… there is more UV radiation at higher elevations than at lower. Clouds are the ones that might surprise you, you can still get sunburned on a cloudy day. Since clouds are made up of a million little water droplets, they can transmit, reflect, and scatter UV radiation. But the larger and thicker the clouds are, the less amount of UV radiation is transmitted. Towering cumulus clouds are the exception, UV radiation can and will reflect off the sides of them.

There are some things you can do to protect yourself while outdoors to make sure you don’t end up with a sunburn. Wearing sunscreen is the biggest thing you can do. While outdoors, SPF 30 or higher will do — apply it 15 minutes before going outdoors and reapply every 2 hours. Stay in the shade if all possible, don’t intentionally stay outside to tan. Wear protective clothing, especially long sleeve shirts, long pants, hats, and sunglasses. If you are going to the beach or lake, use extra caution, as the water and sand reflects UV rays and makes it easier for you to burn. You always want to check the UV index before planning your day, you can do so here. Also remember all of these tips apply to children as well, make sure to keep them safe by applying sunscreen while outdoors.

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