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Understanding UV Index Numbers - Associates in Dermatology Explains

June 10, 2015

In an effort to help educate Central Florida residents about the risks of sun exposure, Associates in Dermatology has sponsored Fox 35’s UV Index feature for four consecutive years. But do you truly understand what each of those numbered and color-coded levels mean for your safety? Here’s a rundown:

  • Green, 0-2 Low Index: A low UV Index reading means that venturing outside presents a relatively low danger from the sun’s UV rays for the average person. However, that doesn’t mean you can safety throw caution to the wind. Even on the lowest-risk days, it’s important to wear sunglasses and use a broad spectrum SPF 30+ sunscreen every single day, no matter what the UV Index shows, especially if your skin tends to burn easily. Also, always steer clear of bright surfaces such as light-colored sand and water, as they can reflect UV rays and intensify exposure.
  • Yellow, 3 to 5 Moderate UV Index: On moderate risk days, seek shady spots when spending time outside, particularly between the hours of 10 am and 2 pm, when the sun is most directly overhead and its rays are the strongest. Wear protective clothing including a wide-brimmed hat and UV-blocking sunglasses – fashionable and functional. Generously apply broad spectrum SPF 30+ sunscreen every two hours, and immediately after swimming or sweating. Note that this is important even on cloudy days. Just because you can’t see the sun doesn’t mean its rays can’t find you.
  • Orange, 6 to 7 High UV Index: Protection is all the more important once the UV Index hits orange. That’s because your skin and eyes are at significant risk of harm by sun exposure. Limit your time outside, particularly between 10 am and 4pm and if you do venture out, stay in the shade. Wear protective clothing including long pants and sleeves and UV-blocking sunglasses.
  • Red, 8-10 Very High UV Index: In Hollywood films and on labels of hazardous chemicals, the color red represents danger. So, it’s a fitting hue for days when the risk of harm by sun exposure is very high. Take extra care when heading outside on red days, as unprotected skin and eyes can burn quickly, and the damage can be irreversible. Minimize your time outside, particularly during the four-hour stretch when the sun’s rays are most potent, and always wear UV-blocking sunglasses.
  • Purple, 11 or higher Extreme UV Index: When the UV Index registers in the purple, it’s best to spend your day inside, particularly during the four hottest hours. If you do venture out, double up on all recommended precautions, including wearing UV-blocking sunglasses, as unprotected skin and eyes can burn in mere minutes.

If you happen to miss the Fox 35 UV Index report, aired during the morning newscast, follow it online at Just CLICK on the UV INDEX Tab. Also, take a cue from the iconic line from the famous 1930s crime novels and Orson Welles-narrated radio shows – “The shadow knows.” If your shadow is taller than you are, particularly during the early morning and late afternoon, your UV exposure is likely to be lower. But if it’s shorter than you are, particularly around midday, know that you’re being exposed to higher levels of UV radiation and it’s time to seek the shade.

Here in sunny Florida, sun protection is a must, even on the coldest winter day, but especially as summertime heats up. It’s something that Dr. Michael Steppie is passionate about. That’s why Associates in Dermatology offers a range of proven skin cancer treatments including Mohs micrographic surgery. Get regular screenings and, if you spot signs of skin cancer including a new or changing mole or lesion, call 800-827-SKIN to schedule a potentially life-saving consultation.

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