Wednesday, 16 January 2013

U-B-Safe1: The essential sun safety product this summer

These days, everyone knows how dangerous excessive exposure to UV radiation can be. The Slip, Slop, Slap message has been around since 1981 so it has been drummed into us for most, if not all, of our lives (those not from Australia, Slip, Slop, Slap is a sun safety awareness campaign with the following slogan Slip on a shirt, Slop on the 30+ sunscreen, Slap on a hat,).

Whenever I know that I am going to be outside for a while, such as when I'm at the beach or park, I am always diligent in applying sunscreen to my kids. However, there are times when we are just popping across the road or are only planning on being outside for a few minutes when I don't bother. It is important to have some unprotected sun exposure each day to allow Vitamin D production to occur. In fact, there is currently a Vitamin D deficiency epidemic as we have been too diligent in following the Slip, Slop, Slap message. According to The Dark Side of Tanning, to maintain adequate Vitamin D levels:

  • In NSW from August to May, six to eight minutes of sun exposure to the face, hands and arms (15% of the body) on most days of the week at times when the UV index is below 3 (before 10am and after 3pm daylight savings time) is all the sun exposure a fair skinned person requires for vitamin D production.
  • In June and July this may increase to 40 to 50 minutes.
  • Short bursts of sun (outside peak UV periods) are better for making vitamin D than long periods, as the body can only absorb a set amount at a time.

But how are you to know when you have had sufficient sun exposure and are at risk of damaging your skin. Previously, you could only estimate but now there is a nifty new device, the U-B-Safe 1, that will calculate your exposure and warn you when you have been out in the sun too long. This device is useful, not only if you are concerned about your Vitamin D levels, but your sun exposure in general as we all know that excessive exposure to UV radiation causes premature ageing of the skin, skin damage and ultimately skin cancer.

The U-B-Safe 1 is a personal UV radiation alarm dose meter - you pin it to a part of your clothing, such as your hat or shirt, and it is sounds an alarm when your skin has absorbed the maximum daily amount of UV radiation for your skin type. You calibrate it to your skin type:

Switch 1: Very fair, always burns, never tans
Switch 2: Fair, Easily burns, minimal tanning
Switch 3: Light-medium, some sunburn, gradual tanning
Switch 4: Medium, minimal sunburn, always tanned
Switch 5: Medium-dark, rarely sunburns, always tanned

It is recommended that you don't use a setting higher than 2 for babies and children.

I recruited The Crazy Kid to be my tester to see how it works. He is probably a 2 but I set it at 1 as I'd rather be a little more cautious. Without him realising what I was doing, I pinned it to the back of his shirt. The device only measures when you are being exposed to UV radiation, so each time you are in the shade you are safe and it won't be detecting any exposure.

Crazy was running around the back yard, in and out of our sun room, playing in his cubby and on his slide so he was constantly moving between full sun exposure and the protection of the shade. It took about 30 minutes before a warning alarm sounded - this is a single beep that lets you know when you had better move into the shade. After about five more minutes of playing (in both the sun and shade), the full warning went off - the device started playing Greensleeves. Had I not heard it, the Crazy kid would have alerted me as he started running around in circles trying to work out where the music was coming from! I think it is brilliant the way it monitors actual UV exposure - as he was in both the sun and the shade Crazy had quite a decent play outside before the alarm went off. I would have assumed that he had reached his maximum sooner. It is also brilliant for monitoring times when you think you are protected in the shade but in fact filtered sunlight is getting through. When Crazy was 10 days old we took him to watch my baseball team playing. He was passed around but was kept in the shade the whole time, or so we though. He actually ended up getting a mild sunburn that day. I was gutted that I had let my 10 day old baby get sun burnt. Had I had this device back then, I would have been alerted that we were actually being fully protected by the shade.

The device has a daily and monthly memory feature that keeps track of your exposure throughout the day. So, if you are constantly in and out, it will keep track and add up your exposure, alerting you when you have had the maximum allowance for the day. This is brilliant for multiple park trip days or days when you go to the beach then come home and spend time in the back yard.

The device has been designed tough to be totally kid and industry proof. It is water proof up to 2 metres so you can leave it on while you go in the water. In fact, it is recommended that you pin one on your child's hat and don't take it off, that way your child will be constantly monitored wherever they go.

Every parent seriously needs one of these devices, especially when you have a young child who does not stay seated in the shade like they are supposed to. It is a brilliant way to monitor when it is time to come back inside. It doesn't replace sun screen or any of the past Slip, Slop, Slapping that you have been doing - you still need to keep that up, but this device allows you to monitor how much UV radiation you are being exposed so that you can balance your need for Vitamin D production with the need to avoid excess exposure.

The U-B-Safe 1 retails for $68 and is available online at  +61 8 94705677

Does the U-B-Safe 1 sound like a device that you would find useful?

All opinions are my own and I received no remuneration for this post. The U-B-Safe 1 was provided for consideration.