By Michelle Carbery, Corporate Wellness Specialist, Independent Health

Thanks to all the beautiful weather this summer, many of us have been spending a lot of time outside. While being outdoors is a great way to boost your mood and Vitamin D production, it can also lead to skin damage, insect bites and exposure to poisonous plants. If you know how to protect yourself properly, you can still enjoy all of the benefits of the great outdoors.

You can protect your skin from the sun and UV rays and decrease your chances of developing skin cancer by wearing protective clothing and sunscreen:

  • Wear clothing to cover as much skin as possible. Darker colors protect more than light colors.
  • Wearing a hat with at least a 2- to 3-inch brim all around protects areas that are often exposed to intense sun, such as the ears, eyes, forehead, nose, and scalp where skin cancers commonly develop.
  • UV-blocking sunglasses are important for protecting the delicate skin around the eyes and decreasing the chances of developing certain eye diseases.
  • Sunscreens with broad spectrum protection (against both UVA and UVB rays) with SPF values of 30 or higher are recommended.
  • Apply the sunscreen 30 minutes before going outside and follow the label directions.

Take these precautionary steps to protect yourself from insect bites that can spread harmful illnesses, such as Zika, West Nile and Lyme disease:

  • Wear clothing that minimizes exposed skin such as long sleeves and pants. You may even consider clothing that has insect repellent in the fabric.
  • Check your skin against ticks during outdoor activities and at the end of the day. Prompt removal can help prevent infection. Wash the area with alcohol or soap and water and watch for signs of rash or fever which could indicate an infection.
  • Apply insect repellent before heading outdoors, according to the label instructions. Products containing DEET, picaridin and lemon eucalyptus have been found effective in protecting against bug and tick bites.

Don’t let poisonous plants keep you from the outdoors. Instead, protect your skin by:

  • Wearing gloves and long sleeves when gardening
  • Learning how to identify common poisonous plants in your area
  • Putting on closed-toed shoes with socks while out for a nature walk.

Remember, your skin is 90% of your selfie. Make sure to take care of it!