Maybe I'm wrong but I would guess most people who know me would say my most striking physical feature would be my red hair. When one of my two sisters graduated from college years ago, the commencement was held in a large area with thousands of people present. One of her friends knew we were there because, as she told me, "we saw you guys from across the area -- your hair makes you stick out like a beacon."
Over the years I guess I have learned to embrace my distinct hair color and fair skin color as they go hand-in-hand. But when you are a kid, it was not always much fun.
I was the kid who ALWAYS had to wear a t-shirt at the pool, the rare times I even went. I was also the kid who had to limit my time in the sun or load up with multiple layers of sunscreen -- only to get sunburnt anyway. And then never actually get a tan like most everyone else.
At some point I just learned I couldn't be in the direct sun for long and adjusted my life in the summer from there.
For a farm kid, this meant tractors without cabs had to have an umbrella or buggy top as necessary equipment. We baled a lot of hay and walked a lot of beans in the early morning or evening when it was cooler and out of the direct sunlight.
The Upper Midwest Agricultural Safety and Health Center (UMASH) has a page of its website dedicated to sun safety (http://umash.umn.edu/…) tips. The Center even has a series of sunscreen do's and don'ts.
DO use mineral-based, broad spectrum UVA/UVB of SPF 30-50. DO use one tablespoon of sunscreen per large body part. DO re-apply every two hours and more frequently with sweat and swimming.
DON'T use spray sunscreens. DON'T skip sunscreen on cloudy days. DON'T use sunscreen as a standalone protection.
UMASH wants those involved in agriculture to remember these simple Ss -- SLIP on a shirt, SLOP on sunscreen, SLAP on a hat, SEEK shade and SLIDE on sunglasses.
I have never had any issues following these sun safety rules but I know not everyone in ag does follow these as diligently as I do. Thus, farmers tend to have some issues with skin cancer just from the amount of time they spend in the sun. My dad, who as a youth spent most of the summers baling hay on the family's dairy farm, has had spots removed from his face, ears and neck over the years. Luckily nothing has been too serious.
I asked him once why my grandparents didn't make him wear sunscreen, considering how much time he spent in the sun on the farm. He said they just didn't consider things like sunscreen back then. So, despite him having red hair as well, I guess everyone in my family worked outside in the 1960s and just got burnt to a crisp.
I am kind of glad I was not around to experience this.
So as the summer activities begin and the temperatures rise, please remember the sun safety tip from UMASH. You don't have to worry about me -- I will be the one in the shade as much as humanly possible.
Russ Quinn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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