The ozone layer shields the Earth from harmful UV radiation. Ozone depletion, weather, and the seasons cause different amounts of UV radiation to reach the Earth. The UV Index tells you how much. It predicts the next day's UV levels on a 1-11+ scale that helps you decide what to do to be safe in the sun. You can find out what the UV Index forecast is where you live by visiting the UV Index page and entering your zip code.
What follows is a description of each UV Index level, and tips to help you avoid harmful exposure to UV radiation.
Move your mouse over the UV Index scale to learn more about each UV level.
A UV Index reading of 11 or higher means extreme risk of harm from unprotected sun exposure. Try to avoid sun exposure during midday hours, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Apply sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 liberally every 2 hours.
It is possible to go outside when the UV Index is 11 or higher. Make sure you always seek shade, wear a hat, cover up, wear 99-100% UV-blocking sunglasses, and use sunscreen. Or you can opt to stay indoors and take the opportunity to relax with a good book rather than risk dangerous levels of sun exposure.
A UV Index reading of 8 to 10 means very high risk of harm from unprotected sun exposure. Minimize sun exposure during midday hours, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Protect yourself by liberally applying a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30. Wear protective clothing and sunglasses to protect the eyes.
Be careful during routine outdoor activities such as gardening or playing sports. Remember that UV exposure is especially strong if you are working or playing between the peak hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Don't forget that spectators, as well as participants, need to wear sunscreen and eye protection to avoid too much sun.
A UV Index reading of 6 to 7 means high risk of harm from unprotected sun exposure. Apply a sunscreen with a SPF of at least 30. Wear a wide-brim hat and sunglasses to protect your eyes.
Wearing sunglasses protects the lids of your eyes as well as the lens.
A UV Index reading of 3 to 5 means moderate risk of harm from unprotected sun exposure.
An easy way to tell how much UV exposure you are getting is to look for your shadow:
A UV Index reading of 2 or less means low danger from the sun's UV rays for the average person:
Snow and water can reflect the sun's rays. Skiers and swimmers should take special care. Wear sunglasses or goggles, and apply sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30. Remember to protect areas that could be exposed to UV rays by the sun's reflection, including under the chin and nose.