If I Knew Then What I Know Now

I remember the first time that I got seriously sunburned. It was the summer of 1989 and I was a graduating senior in high school. The Wimbledon tennis finals were on TV, the weather was gorgeous and I had a lot of time on my hands. So in my determination to get a sun tan, I took the TV out into the garden and watched Steffi Graf beat Martina Navratilova followed by Boris Becker winning his 3rd and final Wimbledon title by beating Stefan Edberg. Not wanting to use my mom’s tanning oil (which I doubt gave any protection from the sun but smelled like coconuts), every time I got hot, I applied cold water to cool down. The quality of the tennis that year wasn’t the most memorable experience of that week, it was the severe sunburn that I got, which I remember resulted in me pulling sheets of burned skin off of my body in a cold bath a few days later.

While the story above contains a number of valuable lessons it calls to mind that often the consequences of unhealthy behaviors can be attributed to a lack of education. My knowledge of sun safety back then was nonexistent. I think it was for most people. We hadn’t heard of the ozone layer and we chuckled when we heard that in Australia they were encouraging people to stay out of the sun and introduced their Slip-Slap-Slop campaign. Slip into long-sleeved clothing they said.  Slop on some sunscreen they alliteratively suggested. Slap on a hat. Silly Australians. It turned out that they were way ahead of the game when it came to staying safe in the sun and their message is one that I now happily follow and encourage my family to do the same.

The CDC report that skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States. In 2011 (the most recent year numbers are available) 9,128 people in the United States died from melanomas of the skin, including 6,001 men and 3,127 women.


Taken from the excellent TED Ed site, here’s a great video, plus interactive component that explains the benefits of taking precautions when in the sun. You already know that a trip to the beach can give you a nasty sunburn, but the nitty gritty of sun safety is actually much more complex. Wrinkle-causing UVA rays and burn-inducing UVB’s can pose a serious risk to your health (and good looks). So what can you do? Kevin P. Boyd makes the case to slap on some physical or chemical SPF daily.

Great sites that you can check out for skin safety information include:

How Can I Protect My Children From The Sun – CDC

Be Safe In The Sun – American Cancer Society

Children’s Activities & Curriculum – Sun Safety Alliance

Sun Safety – KidsHealth

Here are this weeks questions. Feel free to keep the conversation flowing on Twitter, perhaps even share where in the world you are practicing sun safety this week. Don’t forget the #slowchathealth hashtag!

Q1. What unhealthy behaviors did you engage in when you were younger due to a lack of education at the time? #slowchathealth

Q2. In what ways do you model a healthy lifestyle to your students? #slowchathealth

Q3. How do you teach your students the consequence of engaging in unhealthy sun safety behaviors? #slowchathealth

Q4. How seriously, or not, do you think students take the idea of sun safety? What do you think influences their views? #slowchathealth

Q5. Take the sun safety IQ test and comment on your result. #slowchathealth

2 thoughts on “If I Knew Then What I Know Now

    1. Great question. Although darker skin naturally has a higher level of protection than fair skin, that doesn’t mean you should forgo the sun cream. Find one that works for your needs and apply regularly when exposed to the suns rays.


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