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Whether you’re on a tropical vacation or in your backyard, make sure to protect your skin from the sun this summer. Unprotected exposure to UV rays can create harmless sunspots or painful burns. Most importantly, however, it can also lead to skin cancer, the most common type of cancer in the U.S.

To reduce your risk of sun damage, follow these tips from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):

  • Stay in the shade, especially during midday hours between 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Umbrellas, trees or other shelters can provide relief from the sun.
  • Be extra careful around surfaces that reflect the sun’s rays, such as sand, water and concrete.
  • Wear a hat with a wide brim to shade your face, head, ears and neck.
  • Wear sunglasses that block both UVA and UVB rays to lower the risk of cataracts and other eye problems.
  • Wear a long-sleeve shirt and pants or a long skirt for additional protection when possible. If that’s not practical, try wearing a T-shirt or a beach cover-up.
  • Apply a thick layer of broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher at least 15 minutes before going outside, even on cloudy or overcast days. Remember to apply it to all exposed skin, including your ears, scalp, lips, neck, tops of feet and backs of hands. Reapply at least every 2 hours and after swimming, sweating or toweling off. Throw away sunscreens if they’re expired or after one to two years.
  • Avoid indoor tanning. Getting a “base tan” before going on vacation damages your skin and doesn’t protect you from sun exposure on your trip.

If you get a sunburn, take aspirin, acetaminophen or ibuprofen to relieve pain, headache and fever. Drink plenty of water, and soothe burns with cool baths or by gently applying cold, wet cloths. Use a topical moisturizing cream or aloe for additional relief, and avoid direct sunlight until the burn has healed.

If your skin blisters from a bad sunburn, lightly bandage or cover the area with gauze to prevent infection. Don’t break blisters—that slows healing and increases the risk of infection—and apply antiseptic ointment if blisters break.

Seek medical attention immediately if you experience a severe sunburn that covers more than 15 percent of your body, dehydration, a high fever above 101 degrees Fahrenheit or extreme pain that lasts more than 48 hours.

Always keep an eye out for long-term skin changes, and talk to your doctor if you notice a new growth, a sore that doesn’t heal or a change in a mole.

This summer, practice smart sun protection. It’s quick and easy, and will help prevent sunburns or other skin issues.

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