It seems that, despite the publicity, we’re still not getting the sun protection message – and we’re risking serious health issues
Protecting your skin
‘A tan is actually a sign that the skin has been damaged and is trying to protect itself,’ warns the British Association of Dermatologists. Your body produces brown melanin to protect itself from further UV damage – and UV damage can lead to skin cancer.
While we need a little outdoor sunshine to maintain our Vitamin D levels, limit your exposure by:
– finding shade when the sun is strongest (c. 11am – 3pm)
– covering our skin
– choosing a suitable sunscreen and using it properly
UVA protection is rated up to 5 stars. The SPF (sun protection factor) refers to UVB, ranging from 2 (lowest protection) to 50+. Choose a sunscreen with both UVA protection (at least 4*) and UVB protection.
Sun cream is only as effective as its application, so apply liberally and frequently – 30 minutes before going out and then at least every two hours afterwards. Also apply it straight after you’ve been in water, even if it’s ‘water-resistant’. Don’t use expired sunscreen.
Water can increase the sun’s radiation by 5%, and sand by 17%, so make sure you keep well protected.
The sensitive skin of babies and children needs extra protection and you should keep children under six months out of strong sunlight completely.
Remember to be extra careful if your skin is particularly pale; if you have freckles, red or fair hair; if you have lots of moles (look out for new moles and changes to existing moles, freckles or skin patches); you have skin problems relating to a medical condition and if you have a family history of skin cancer.
If you do get burnt, apply plenty of cold water, then a soothing product, such as after sun or calamine lotion. An antiseptic cream containing a local anaesthetic can help, as can basic painkillers. If you feel unwell or your skin swells badly or blisters, seek medical help. Avoid the sun until all redness has gone.
Protect your eyes
UV light damages eyes too, so remind your children never to look directly at the sun. Check that your sunglasses protect against UVA and UVB and carry the CE Mark.
Symptoms can include headache, dizziness, confusion, appetite loss, feeling sick, excessive sweating, pale clammy skin, cramps, fast breathing or pulse, a temperature of 37c or above and intense thirst.
If someone is suffering from heatstroke, lie them down in the shade, raise their feet, offer cold drinks and remove unnecessary clothing. Call 999 if they’re no better after 30 minutes or if symptoms worsen. To avoid heatstroke, stay hydrated, keep your head covered and rest in the shade when the sun is hottest.