The strength of the sun varies according to a number of factors. They are:
• Latitude. Equatorial regions have stronger sunshine.
• Altitude. The higher you arc, the less ozone and atmosphere there is to protect you from solar radiation.
• Season. Days are longer in summer so you are exposed to more sunshine.
• Time of day. The sun is stronger from 10am to 2pm, when it is at its height.
• Reflection. Sun reflects off water, glass, white surfaces and hard surfaces, possibly concentrating radiation on you – even if you are sitting under an umbrella.
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The best way to protect yourself from the sun is to move into the shade, remembering that you will still be susceptible to reflected radiation unless you go into a building with walls all around you.
The shade from balconies, umbrellas and porches offers some protection, but beware. Don’t become complacent. You are still susceptible to solar radiation unless there are walls all around you.
Sunburn – countermeasures
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YOU must consider your personal skin colour, tolerance of sunshine, the location and climate you are in, the season, time of day and all of the other factors that determine whether you will burn or not. YOU have to make the decisions to protect yourself from sunburn.
Stay out of the sun during the hottest part of the day, usually between 10am when it starts getting hotter, reaching a peak at about noon, and falling off after 2pm. If you have fair hair or red hair and light skin or have just arrived at a tropical destination, you may want to expand that danger period to 9am-3pm.
Remember that you are still receiving UV radiation when sitting in the shade. Light and radiation reflect and bounce off the sea, the beach and buildings, which means you are still burning while sitting under an umbrella or in a beachside bar radiation is reflected by different surfaces, which may even amplify the effects of UV exposure. As an example, snow reflects about 90% of UV radiation (which causes snow blindness). Beach sand reflects only about 20% of UV radiation. Remember that some things absorb UV radiation. Glass absorbs almost all UV radiation so sitting behind glass is quite safe.
When it is daylight the sun is up there somewhere, even if it is overcast or cloudy. It may seem dull but the sun is still shining and UV radiation is still burning through those clouds and reaching you.