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Ways to Protect You and Your Family from UV at High Altitude
Ski Resorts

Ways to Protect You and Your Family from UV at High Altitude

Did you know that UV exposure can increase by about 10-12% for every 3200 feet you are above sea level? Many sources like the Boulder Medical Center highlight the heightened risk of unhealthy sun exposure at high altitudes, and it’s not necessarily just linked to snowy, mountainous regions--living at a high altitude in flat areas can put you at risk as well (see current levels in Chicago, Denver, and Vail). Beyond just the altitude, the World Health Organization has also assembled a helpful infographic that shares that people may experience about 25% more UV exposure from sea foam than just the ambient light, and even up to 80% more UV exposure when altitude is combined with UV reflection from snow. 

Many people are aware that sunscreen can help reduce your exposure to UV rays. This is true, but it can be hard to remember to apply sunscreen when you will be exposed to sunshine, especially if you are staying home or just leaving the house for simple errands or for a road trip rather than planned outdoor recreation. At the times when you do have a plan to go out for recreation, it can be hard to remember to reapply sunscreen throughout the activity. There are a number of ways you can combat these problems, and they start much earlier than the moment when you might forget to apply or reapply sunscreen. 

Sun Protective Clothing

One fix you can explore is sun protective clothing, since having these kinds of garments will help you increase your average protection level before you even have the chance to forget sunscreen or other preventative measures. Different types of clothes offer different levels of protection, so you will have to decide for yourself based on your activity and other habits what type of clothing makes the most sense. Once you’ve explored the different factors that make clothing more or less sun-protective, check out these various online retailers to help you find just the right garment for your activity. 

Sunglasses

Fortunately, using sunglasses is often a little easier to remember, since you will find yourself straining your eyes against bright light. There are tons of questions you might have about quality versus price when it comes to sunglasses, and questions about the validity of claims of 100% UV blockage from cheaper brands or from lesser-known sources. There are also other debates including how much reflection of UV light on the back side of sunglass lenses affects your eyes, and some recommendations for materials that might reduce this risk. Use these different tips and explanations to help you make choices about what types of sunglasses you want to buy for your next adventure. 

Lip Balms

This is a bit similar to sunscreen in that you need to remember to reapply in order to receive the maximum protection, but it can be easier to remember as you are drinking water throughout your outdoor activity. You can also make educated choices about which products you buy and carry with you for outdoor activities, as sources recommend that people avoid using lip gloss when exposed to heightened UV, as the shiny surface can actually increase the potential damage. Instead, look for products that have a stated SPF so you can protect your lips not only from drying and cracking, but also from longer-term UV damage. Many of those products are endorsed and described by several sources, and you can cross-reference that information with the other recommendations given by dermatologists in the blogs linked above and below. 

Of course, you can also explore hats, or goggles and helmets as they match your activity to prevent exposure. Check out our blog post on packing other preventative equipment to avoid injury and for quick tips on how to resolve discomfort. You can also check out this dermatologist’s recommendations for healing sunburned lips, or explore other heath blogs for additional recommendations to soothe sunburns.