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How to Read the Global UV Index

Jana believes in being prepared and self-sufficient. She also loves sharing prepper tips and community projects with kindred spirits.


What Is the Global UV Index?

The Global UV Index (UVI) is a simple way to measure the radiation levels that you might experience as you go about your day. Invented in 1992 by Canadian scientists, the purpose of the index is to allow anyone to make an informed choice regarding their own safety and that of their loved ones.

For example, when UV levels are dangerously high on Monday but safer on Thursday, you can make the safer decision to take your kids to the beach later in the week.

Is the UVI Really That Important?

Yes, the index can literally save lives. According to the American Cancer Society, the reality of soaking up too much sunlight is grim. Several studies have shown that most skin cancers result from exposure to UV rays. With global warming and rising temperatures come more risky days. The index is important because it provides you with a free and daily update to keep your family safe.

A wide hat and white clothes can help to protect you outdoors.

A wide hat and white clothes can help to protect you outdoors.

What Are UV Rays?

Even if this is all very new to you, most people already know that UV rays have to do with solar radiation. But if you want a deep dive explanation in the shortest amount of time possible, here it is. The CDC describes UV as a form of non-ionizing radiation that is emitted by the sun and artificial sources like tanning beds, halogen and fluorescent lights, and some lasers.

Short-term exposure is not considered an issue but long hours or constant exposure throughout your life is a different story.

How Many Levels Exist on the UVI?

The UVI begins at 0. The higher the number, the more harmful the situation becomes. Most at risk are your skin and eyes, facing troubles such as sunburn, skin cancer, eye problems and premature ageing. Again, the higher the level, the faster and more serious the damage becomes.

Avoid premature wrinkles by shielding your eyes and skin from UV rays.

Avoid premature wrinkles by shielding your eyes and skin from UV rays.

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How to Read the UV Index

Most versions of the UVI are colour-coded but that is not important. What is important is the number of each level. Remember, the day’s UV rating is based on the maximum radiation levels expected which are usually at the highest during noon and a few hours afterwards.

Levels 0 - 2

This is the lowest end of the spectrum and the only two levels that are considered safe or “low” radiation levels. No protection against the sun is needed and you can spend as much time as you want outdoors.

Levels 3 - 5

The moderate levels. Sun protection is required and sunscreen products with broad-spectrum SPF-15 should be adequate. Wear clothing that shields your face and eyes, like a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses. Stay in the shade during the late morning and until after mid-afternoon.

Levels 6 - 7

These levels are considered “high.” Even so, you can apply the same protective measures stated for levels 3 to 5.

Levels 8 - 10

The “very high” levels. When your area is singed with these unfortunate numbers, you need to be extra cautious and perhaps even postpone any activities that expose you to hours of direct sunlight. If you plan on venturing outside, limit your time in the sun and stay in the shade. Use the highest SPF factor sunscreen you can find and wear protective clothing including a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses.

Levels 11+

This is dangerous territory. Any UV levels equal to or above 11 are capable of causing severe damage. Your eyes and skin can burn in a matter of minutes. It might not feel serious while it is happening, but regrettably, the frightening effects might show up later in the form of skin cancer or eye damage.

It is best to completely avoid the outdoors during this time. If you must venture outside, keep the time you spend in the sun to an absolute minimum. Wear sunscreen with high SPF and all the protective clothing you can find.

Where to Find Your Local UVI

When searching for your local UVI, it is often enough to Google your home town or region together with the words “UV index.” You can also find it on decent weather apps. Either way, you should never have to pay to read the UVI as it is freely available online and often updated several times a day.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2022 Jana Louise Smit

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