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UV Index, Hiking & Sunscreen

I. Basics: What is the UV Index?

UV Index was created by the National Weather Service to help people understand how much sunlight they will be exposed to on a particular day. Unfortunately, very few people understand it. To make matters worse, the weatherman will usually say something like "UV Index of 3, not bad today" -- and lull people into a false sense of security.

The UV Index ranges from 0 to 15. 0 is minimal, 15 represents extreme danger. But what does it really mean?

A UV Index of zero means zero danger. You'll seldom, if ever, hear this. What you may hear quite frequently is a UV index of "2" -- not bad, eh? What it actually means is that the average person can expect to safely be outside for 30 minutes and not develop a sunburn.

An index of "3" represents 20 minutes of safe unprotected exposure. "4" represents 15 minutes. Not what you expected? Read on...

A "5" gives you a mere 12 minutes; "6" is 10 minutes. UV Index from 7 to 9 means just 8 minutes of safety, and a UV Index of 10 means that you can burn and lay the groundwork for deadly melanoma in less than 6 minutes.

Preparing for the Hike

Rule #1: Use sunscreen on any exposed body parts anytime of year, anywhere.

Rule #2: Use sunscreen rated "40" or higher.

Rule #3: If you don't want to put your sunscreen on, you can't go outside. Mom said so.

-- Rick

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