Sun protection in the garden

We are moving into the time of year when the Tasmanian sunshine really has some sting in it!

We need to be smart about striking the right balance between getting enough sunshine for vitamin D production, and avoiding skin damage.

Sunshine includes a component of ultraviolet, or “UV” radiation. UV radiation is responsible for skin damage, which can lead to ageing of the skin and skin cancers. The intensity of UV radiation is measured on a scale from 0 through 20.

Once the UV index is at or above 3, exposure to sunshine will cause skin damage. Visible signs of skin damage include sun tan and sun burn.

Balanced against our need to avoid skin damage, is our need to produce adequate vitamin D. Vitamin D is produced by our bodies in response to sun exposure and having adequate vitamin D is very important to staying healthy.

In the Winter and Spring, most Tasmanians are deficient in vitamin D. Even during the Summer and “Autumn” months, when we enjoy more sun exposure, one third of Tasmanians still don’t have enough vitamin D in their bodies.

So how do we strike the balance between avoiding skin damage, but making enough vitamin D?

In Tasmania, the UV index tends to stay below 3 even at noon for the mid-April to mid-September period. During this period we generally don’t need sun protection whilst outside.

For the rest of the year, exposure to the sun will cause skin damage. From mid-September to mid-April we should aim for regular, short exposures to the sun, 1 or 2 times a day for 10 to 15 minutes. Use adequate sun protection the rest of the time and always avoid sunburn.

If you want to learn more, or check up on predicted UV levels for the day, here are some web sites to go to:

The Cancer Council Tasmania’s web site then follow the link for “Vitamin D”. The Cancer Council web site also displays the UV alert period (times when the UV index is predicted to be over 3) for any day.

The Bureau of Meteorology’s web site. You can look at the Hobart forecast to see the UV alert period (when the UV index is predicted to go over 3) for any day, or you can look at a graphical display of predicted UV for the day in Hobart.

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