The summer months are here, which means many of us will soon be laying out on the beach, near the pool or by the lake. Getting too much sun is the last thing you want on your mind while relaxing by the water, but it is important to protect yourself and your family from potentially dangerous UV rays while enjoying the weather.

"Residents should really be taking precautions against sun exposure every day of the year," said Louisiana Department of Health (DHH) State Health Officer Dr. Jimmy Guidry. "But it's critical to do so during the midday hours of our summer months, when UV rays are the strongest and do the most damage."

It is important to remember that spending time near the water is not a requirement for getting too much sun. Many other summer activities can cause over-exposure, such as gardening, attending outdoor events and playing sports. In fact, it does not have to be sunny in order to be exposed to UV rays. These rays can reach you when it is cloudy, too.

In addition to painful sunburns, overexposure to the sun's rays may cause more serious issues such as heat exhaustion or premature aging. More than 90 percent of the visible changes commonly attributed to skin aging are caused by the sun. Too much sun may also lead to skin cancer. In the United States, nearly 5 million people are treated for skin cancer each year.

LDH has compiled tips to help keep you and your family safe from overexposure to the sun's UV rays.

• Always wear sunscreen with broad spectrum (UVA and UVB) protection and an SPF of at least 15 or 30.
• Apply sunscreen 15 to 20 minutes prior to going out in the sun, and reapply at least every two hours-more often if you are swimming or sweating heavily.
• Cover up with clothing to protect exposed skin, wear UV-blocking sunglasses and consider wearing a wide-brim hat that shades the face, head, ears and neck.
• Avoid tanning beds and sunlamps, which emit UV rays as dangerous as those coming from the sun.
• Take frequent breaks from the sun by going indoors or moving into the shade, especially during midday hours between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
• Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water.
• Be alert for children who may be suffering from heat exhaustion. Warning signs include a child feeling overheated, tired or weak.

This is the second in a series of Summer Safety advisories the Department will send out this summer. Check back each Wednesday throughout the summer.

The Louisiana Department of Health strives to protect and promote health statewide and to ensure access to medical, preventive and rehabilitative services for all state citizens. To learn more about LDH, visit For up-to-date health information, news and emergency updates, follow LDH's Twitter account and Facebook.