Cumulative sun exposure is a major factor in the development of skin cancer, according to an Iowa State Extension article on sun safety in the field. Small changes occur in the skin each time it is exposed to sunlight.
This time of year, it’s easy to rush out into the fields when there is work to be done and neglect proper attire and protection from the sun’s damaging rays. Here are some things to consider before working long hours in the sun this summer.
Protection for the face and other parts of the head can be as simple as wearing a hat. There is no one perfect hat for everyone, however, there are some things to consider when selecting a hat.
Ask yourself: how much of my face, ears and neck are shaded by the hat? Will the hat keep my head cool enough on a hot summer day? Is the hat comfortable and will it stay on my head during most tasks? And will I commit to wearing it?
Clothing helps block UV rays when it covers the skin. It’s hard to think about pulling on long sleeve shirts and jeans on some of the hottest days of the month, but it could protect your skin from sun damage.
Tightly woven or knitted fabrics protect the skin better from UV rays. Also, dark colored fabrics absorb UV rays and protect better than light colored fabrics. Light colors and white clothes may be manufactured to block UV rays or may be washed using detergent with brighteners to improve protection.
Parts of the body that are not covered by clothes can be protected with sunscreen lotions. Sunscreens are not a substitute for wearing proper clothing. They can also give users a false security. Outdoor workers should use sunscreen with a minimum SPF of 15 and reapply regularly.
The easiest way to reduce exposure is to avoid the sun — but this is not always practical for farm workers. Critical hours are between 10 a.m.-4 p.m. when the sun can do the most damage. While this may be impossible to avoid, workers can take note to reduce their time spent in direct sunlight during these critical hours.
Hats can be effective, but not always effective enough when it comes to protecting your eyes. A good shade hat combined with the use of sunglasses is a better way to protect your eyes from sun exposure. Choose sunglasses with a higher UV rating (preferably 100 percent).
Source: Iowa State Extension, Remember sun safety in the field.
(Farm and Dairy is featuring a series of “101” columns throughout the year to help young and beginning farmers master farm living. From finances to management to machinery repair and animal care, farmers do it all.)
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