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Family Sun Safety 101

The warmer weather is finally here (at least in most part of the country). For homeowners, that means it’s time to work in the garden, mow the lawn, fire up the grill, and spend time in the backyard with family and friends. Of course, that also means prolonged exposure to the sun.

One of the cool things about the sun (no pun intended) is that it can improve our moods and help our bodies produce vitamin D by interacting with the cells in our skin. Vitamin D is very important for bone health, and it’s one of those vitamins that scientists are very interested in because it may also provide us a variety of other benefits.

However, please beware; when it comes to spending time in the sun, there can be too much of a good thing.

Excessive sun exposure on a hot day can lead to dehydration and sun burns in the short term and damage to your skin and eyes in the long term.

So how do you balance the benefits of sun exposure with the risk of damage and dehydration that can take place when we get too much sun?

Be Sun Smart

  1. Whenever possible, minimize prolonged exposure to the sun between 11 am and 4pm. In the summer months, the sun is incredibly strong during this time of day.
  2. Check the UV index, always use sunscreen when the UV index is > 3
  3. Wear sunglasses to protect your eyes ( one of the most sensitive parts of your body)
  4. Take shade breaks at regular intervals to give your body a chance to recuperate

Choose The Right Sunscreen

  1. Go for a minimum of SPF 15 and ensure it says “broad-spectrum” on the label.
  2. Apply your sunscreen early, often, and as directed. At least 20 minutes before exposure and every few hours after that. Read the product instructions to ensure proper use.
  3. Make sure you use a “water resistant” product.
  4. Keep babies out of the sun and do not attempt to use sunscreen on babies under 6 months old.

Hydrate Properly

Water is the most important component of the human body and pretty much the most important thing we put into our bodies on a daily basis.

People often think that nutrition is only about what you eat, but what you drink is just as, if not more, important.  This is especially true on a hot summer’s day.

The #1 mistake people make when it comes to summer hydration?

Waiting until they are thirsty to hydrate.

Contrary to popular belief, it is unwise to let thirst guide your drinking behaviours on a warm day, especially if it is humid out.

Your best defense against de hydration is to regularly consume cool water (which will also help regulate your body temperature) before, during and after your time in the sun.

Another trick you can use to stay hydrated is to bring plenty of fruits and veggies as snacks, as they tend to have very high water content.

Don’t be afraid to enjoy the sun this summer, just make sure you plan right and ensure that the sun does you more good than harm!

Andy De Santis RD MPH

Andy is a Toronto-based registered dietitian and nutrition writer who holds a master’s degree in public health nutrition. You can learn more about Andy and his services at


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