Did you know that solar radiation may actually be more dangerous in the fall and winter than in the summer? That’s because we take more precautions in the summertime to protect our skin and eyes, but those precautions fall by the wayside after the pools close and the weather turns cooler. Somehow, we think that sun exposure depends on the amount of sunlight we can see, but this is far from the truth.
Neglecting sunscreen and sunglasses in the fall and winter can cause permanent damage to your vision. While ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun are the greatest between May and August in the northern hemisphere, it is important to remember that UV rays reach Earth every day, regardless of cloud cover or season.
Different seasons, different rays
There are two kinds of UV radiation: UVB and UVA. UVB rays are “heat” rays and have a short wavelength. They are intense in the summer but get shorter in the winter as our position on earth spins away from the sun. Conversely, UVA rays reach Earth through visible light and are present 365 days per year. UVA rays are longer and do not get weaker during fall and winter. So, this means that your eyes are exposed to the same amount of UVA radiation in November as in June. Here’s a fact you probably didn’t know: snow can reflect 85 to 90 percent of the sun’s UVA rays, so you need your sunglasses even during a blizzard!
The power of habit
Protecting your vision is simple. All it requires is the formation of a few new habits:
- Purchase two sets of sunglasses for everyone in the family. You know how frustrating it is to lose your sunglasses, so make it easy on yourself by buying a set of family sunglasses for the home and for the car. Purchase cases for the sunglasses and store them in a prominent place like a kitchen cabinet and a car console. Make sure that all pairs of sunglasses offer 100% UVA and UVB protection.
- Replace your sunscreen supply regularly. Chances are good that you have at least one bottle of expired sunscreen in your house. Throw away the old, expired bottles and purchase new sunscreen. Expiration dates are listed on sunscreen for a reason; the protective chemicals in lotions and sprays lose potency with time, so replenish your supply often. Don’t forget to keep sunscreen in your car and in your home.
- Look for UV-blocking clothing the next time you go shopping. Most fabrics do not block UVA rays, so do not assume that covering your skin offers protection from solar radiation. For example, the average cotton shirt only blocks 5 to 10 percent of UVA rays but a 30-50 UPF shirt can block 95 to 99 percent of all UVA rays.
- Wear hats. A wide-brimmed hat that shades the face, neck and shoulders will offer substantial protection from the UVA rays. The next time you go outside to rake fall leaves or do yard work as a family, remind everyone to wear a hat. It’s also good to have a set of hats in your car.
Make a commitment to create eye-friendly habits this fall that will protect your vision and your family’s vision for years to come. On average, children get three times more exposure than adults so, explain to your children why you are implementing these new habits so they can help you follow through with your plan (Source: CNN).