Scouting provides a wealth of opportunity for exciting outdoor adventures. Scouts can be seen swimming in lakes at Scout camp, sledding during a Klondike Derby, hiking beautiful desert and mountain trails, and camping under sun and stars during all seasons of the year. To decrease risk during these activities, Scouts and leaders should understand and implement appropriate safety measures that may help to prevent injury or other bodily harm. Yet, an important safety measure that may have the longest lasting impact is often unknown or overlooked: SUN SAFETY.
More than 135 merit badges are offered by the Boy Scouts of America. At least 47 of them involve outdoor activities with potential for sun exposure. Currently, 52 percent of male high school students reported one or more sunburns a year. Melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer and is commonly diagnosed in teens and young adults. Huntsman Cancer Institute wants Scouts to know that skin cancer is largely preventable. Prevention starts at an early age and is an important component in outdoor Scouting activities.
Think of Scouts collectively, and individually, when identifying some of the risk factors a den or troop may have while engaging in their activities. Ultraviolet (UV) radiation or sun exposure is the most important risk factor for skin cancer.
Factors that affect UV exposure are:
- Elevation. If you live or play at high elevations, you could be thousands of feet closer to the sun. People who live in Utah, for example, get sunburned 30 percent faster than people living in Los Angeles, California, at sea level.
- Reflection. Reflection of UV radiation from light surfaces such as water, snow, and sand can damage skin.
- Time of day. Many outdoor activities take place between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.—the time that the sun is at its peak UV intensity.
Consider that one, or a combination of all three of these factors, may greatly increase risk for skin damage. There is much that can be done to help mitigate many of the risks associated with UV exposure. Please carefully review the following sun safety suggestions:
WHAT CAN I DO?
The following are suggestions for Scouts and their leaders to protect them from sun exposure:
- Limit sun exposure between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
- Protect skin from sun damage: Seek shade and wear protective clothing such as long sleeves, pants, and a broad-brimmed hat.
- Protect eyes from sun damage: wear 100 percent UV protective sunglasses, even on cloudy days.
- Cover exposed skin with SPF 30+ broad-spectrum sunscreen that contains zinc oxide or titanium dioxide.
- Apply sunscreen 20 minutes before going out in the sun and reapply as directed on the label or after water sports.
- Enjoy your natural skin color; do not burn or tan skin; avoid tanning beds, sunlamps, and lying out in the sun.
When planning Scouting adventures, think of ways to encourage sun-safe behaviors. Broad-brimmed hats, neckerchiefs, 100 percent UV protective sunglasses, long-sleeved shirts, and pants are easy to incorporate into Scout uniforms and the culture of Scouting. Discuss with dens or troops the variety of ways clothing and sunscreen protect the skin. These tips offer protection for a lifetime and will help Scouts and their leaders to “Be Prepared.”