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Home News Protect yourself from the sun and heat: essential safety tips for New Mexico residents
David Morgan
575-528-5197 Office
575-649-0754 Mobile

Protect yourself from the sun and heat: essential safety tips for New Mexico residents

SANTA FE – As temperatures continue to soar in New Mexico, the Department of Health (DOH) emphasizes the importance of safeguarding against the harmful effects of sun exposure and extreme heat. By adopting a combination of sun safety practices and heat awareness, residents can safeguard their immediate and long-term health. 

According to the National Weather Service, above-normal temperatures persist throughout the state, with cities like Roswell and Las Cruces experiencing highs over 100 degrees this week.  

August is designated as National Sun Safety Awareness Month, emphasizing the need for sun protection to prevent skin cancer across all types of skin. The DOH stressed that the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. are when the sun poses the greatest risk to skin health. 

Individuals with fair skin, numerous moles or freckles, easy susceptibility to sunburn, light hair and eyes, and a family history of skin cancer are at a higher risk. Additionally, the elderly are more vulnerable.  

Skin cancer comes in three different types, with melanoma being the least common but most serious, accounting for approximately 5% of new cancer cases in the U.S.  

“In New Mexico, we have seen 2,118 newly diagnosed melanoma cases and 265 deaths between 2016 and 2020,” said DOH Deputy Secretary Dr. Laura Parajón. “Excessive exposure to ultraviolet radiation from the sun or tanning beds is the primary risk factor for melanoma.”  

Sunburns and excessive sun exposure during childhood and adolescence also increase the risk of developing melanoma and other skin cancers later in life.  

It is important to apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen that filters out ultraviolet rays A and B (UVA and UVB) and has a sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 before you go outside and reapply throughout the day. Seek shade and wear protective clothing covering your skin. It is also recommended to wear a hat and sunglasses that block both UVA and UVB rays. 

Heat-related illness (HRI) also continues to be a health threat this summer. While the elderly, the very young and those with chronic diseases are considered at higher risk for heat-related illness, in New Mexico, males aged 18-44 are the most likely to visit the emergency department because of it. 

There have been 784 emergency department HRI visits statewide since April 1, with rates currently trending downward. New Mexico has 84% of non-federal emergency departments that report real-time data to NMDOH. Indian Health Service and the Veterans Administration facilities are not included, meaning HRI cases are potentially undercounted. 

You can help yourself and others by knowing the symptoms of heat related illness: 

  • Heat cramps muscle pain or spasms accompanied by heavy sweating, especially during intense exercise. 

What to do: Stop any physical activity and get to a cool place. Drink water or a sports drink and wait for the cramps to go away before starting the activity again. Get medical help right away if the cramps last longer than one hour, if you are on a low-sodium diet, or if you have heart problems. 

  • Heat exhaustion appears with heavy sweating, cold, clammy skin, a fast, weak pulse, nausea or vomiting, muscle cramps, tiredness or weakness, dizziness, headache, and fainting. 

What to do: move to a cool place, loosen clothing, cool down with damp cloths or take a cool bath and sip water. If you are throwing up, have symptoms last longer than an hour, or worsen get medical help right away. 

  • Heat stroke is the most serious heat-related illness and happens when the body loses its ability to sweat. The body temperature will climb (103 degrees or higher), skin will be hot, red, and dry or damp. Pulse will be fast and strong and can be accompanied by a headache, nausea, dizziness, confusion and passing out. It is important to recognize heat stroke in others, as they may not realize the danger that they are in because of confusion. 

What to do: heat stroke is a medical emergency, so call 911 right away. Try to lower the person's body temperature with cool wet cloths or a cool bath. Do not give them anything to drink. 

Employers should implement occupational health plans that allow employees to adapt behaviors to high temperatures such as slowing the pace of work during the heat of the day, provide water, and provide shaded areas for resting.  

Likewise, athletic coaches should take precautions to protect athletes, especially young athletes whose bodies are still developing from getting heat-related illness. Further, DOH urges New Mexicans to never leave children, pets, or anyone in a parked car, even for a few minutes. 

Extreme hot temperatures can heat up concrete and asphalt. Within minutes of contact, people and pets can start to sustain first and second-degree burns. People can also get burns from contact with hot seatbelts, metal surfaces, playground equipment, and more. Protect yourself by wearing shoes outside and walking your pets in the coolest part of the day. 

To find out more about heat-related illnesses visit Additional sun safety information is available online at

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Protéjase del sol y del calor: consejos esenciales de seguridad para los residentes de Nuevo México