Physicians should warn their patients to protect their skin during winter months. Just because it’s cold or cloudy, people cannot ignore protecting their skin against UV rays, which are not affected by temperature and pass right through the clouds. It’s impossible to totally avoid the Sun’s UV rays on exposed areas of the skin.

The Northern Hemisphere points away from the Sun in the winter, and most of the weaker UV rays are blocked by the atmosphere. But at higher elevations, there is greater risk for sunburn because there is less atmosphere to block the Sun’s rays.

Patients should remember to:

• cover up with a long-sleeved jacket, hat, and gloves;

• wear wraparound sunglasses or goggles that provide 100% UV protection;

• pay close attention to the underside of the chin and ears; and

• wear sun block, such as zinc oxide, on exposed and sun-sensitive areas.

If your patient’s winter includes a respite in sunny climate, you should advise him or her to:

• remember to pack sunscreen;

• use waterproof sunscreen while swimming and reapply it often; and

• avoid peak Sun hours of 10 am to 4 pm.

[www.newswise.com, February 12, 2007]