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A Guide to Your Health in the Heat - UV Index and Air Quality Index Explained

Posted August 04, 2019

Mom and two kids sitting outside on sunny day

We’re in the depths of summer heat, and as the heat rises, so does the threat of air pollution and the dangers of UV rays. Globally, extreme temperature events are increasing in frequency, duration and magnitude, which means it will become even more important to protect yourself and your family’s health from rising temperatures and extreme heat. 

While there are many factors to keep an eye on as temperatures rise, there are two numbers right within your local weather forecast that can help keep you safe – Air Quality Index and the UV Index. 

We’ve broken down what they are and what they mean for you: 

Air Quality Index
The Air Quality Index, or AQI, is the system used to warn people when air pollution will be dangerous. AQI tracks dangerous and harmful foreign substances, generally gasses and particulates, that have reached harmful levels in the air. 

While air pollution is especially dangerous to children, people over 65 and people with lowered immune systems, asthma or other lung diseases, it can be dangerous for even the healthiest individuals. 

What can you do to protect yourself and your family? First of all, be aware of when high pollution days are so you know when to take steps to protect yourself. If the day’s levels are high, adjust your plans for the day – avoid prolonged outdoor activities and stay away from high-traffic areas. 

Lowering air pollution can help lower the risk of both long- and short-term cardiovascular and respiratory health problems for people around the world. 

UV Index
The UV Index advises us on the strength of the sun’s UV rays in our region. The higher the number, the stronger the rays. The UV Index is highest in the spring and summer, and is more intense when the sun is highest in the sky – somewhere between noon and 1 p.m. 

The danger of UV rays is that they damage skin cells and are thought to contribute to skin cancer. UV radiation reflects off many surfaces including concrete, water and snow. You can even get indirect UV in the shade or under a beach umbrella. 

There are ways to protect yourself and your family from the sun. The World Health Organization recommends protecting your skin when the UV Index is 3 or higher. When you see an alert that the UV is over 3, make sure to apply generous amounts of sunscreen and reapply every 2 hours. If you are looking for the ultimate protection, adjust your daily plans to stay out of the sun during the sun’s peak hours. 

Be Proactive
The best way to keep your family safe is to stay proactive – keep an eye out on the Air Quality and UV Index, and take preventative measures to stay healthy. Of course, check in with your primary care physician at Summa Health on a yearly basis to stay up to date on your health. Call 800.237.8662 to schedule an appointment. 


Options to Request an Appointment

If your situation is an emergency, call 911.