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Sun Safety Awareness – How to be sun savvy this summer

sun safety
Did you know that this week is Sun Awareness Week? We have pulled together some information from the experts to help you to stay safe in the sun.

How to stay safe in the sun

 

How much do you know about sun safety?  According to a recent survey by the British Association of Dermatologists (BAD), more than one in three (35%) Brits have been sunburnt in the last year while in the UK.  Twenty eight per cent of those were sunburnt three or more times.  We are even more likely to be sunburnt abroad, with almost half of people who have been abroad in the last twelve months getting sunburnt whilst away (46 per cent).

Each year BAD run a national campaign around skin cancer.  This important campaign runs from April to September (including Sun Awareness Week which this year was 8th – 14th May) and combines both prevention and detection advice.  In recognition of this, we have done some digging to find the top tips and advice offered from the experts to see if we can shed some light (pardon the pun!) on staying safe in the sun.

Shade

Avoid the midday sun.  The sun rays are strongest between 11am and 3pm in the summer months.  It is advisable to spend time in the shade during this time.

Be aware: Not all shade is equally protective.  The Skin Cancer Foundation suggest ‘If you can see sunlight, seek the shade’.

Clothing

Clothing is one of the best ways to protect your skin from the sun.  Choose lightweight fabrics and colours.  Fabrics with a close weave (where you can’t see through) offer more protection, as do long sleeves, trousers or long skirts.

Be aware: Old, worn or wet clothing may give less protection.

Hats

Choose a wide brimmed hat to protect your head and neck.  If a baseball cap is more your thing – then be sure to protect your neck and ears with sunscreen.  It’s obvious but choose a hat you actually like so you are more likely to wear it!

Be aware: Hats with fabric you can see through let the UV rays through.  Speaking from experience, a burnt scalp is no fun at all!

Eyes

The Association of Optometrists have produced a useful 60 second video on protecting eyes from harmful UV light and have issued three steps for protecting eyes against sun damage:

  1. Wear CE marked sunglasses, even if you are using contact lenses with a UV filter.
  2. Add extra protection with a wide brimmed sun hat.
  3. Never look at the sun directly, even if it’s just for a few seconds.

Good quality wrap around sunglasses are recommended to ensure protection at the side of your eyes.

Be aware: UV rays bounce off the glass screens of our smartphones or tablets.  Although the surface is small, as we hold it close to our eyes we increase the exposure to the reflection.  Be sure to wear 100% UV protection sunglasses.

Sunscreen

The three main labels to look out for on our sunscreen are:

SPF: Sun protection factor (the sunscreen’s ability to filter out UVB)
UVB: Ultraviolet B radiation
UVA: Ultraviolet A radiation

Care in the Sun explains that UV rays are invisible rays from the sun that can damage your skin and also your eyes.  UVA protection in sunscreen guards against ageing by filtering out UVA.  Where a sunscreen has a UVA star system (0-5), it is recommended to look for a star rating of 4 or more.  For maximum protection, choose a broad spectrum sunscreen that filters out both UVA and UVB radiation and has SPF of at least 15 (for adults) and SPF 30-50+ for children.

World UV app can be downloaded to help you to keep an eye on the sun’s rays and when they reach harmful levels.  The app was developed by BAD and the Met office and gives live UV ratings anywhere in the world.

So what do we know?

  • You should apply your sunscreen generously at least 30 minutes before going outdoors.  Most people apply too little resulting in 50-80% less protection than specified on the bottle.
  • You should reapply at least every two hours
  • You should use an amount equivalent to the size of a golf ball and apply liberally to cover your entire body
  • Sunscreens have an expiry date.  The shelf life is shown on the label by a symbol of a pot with the letter M and a number which is the number of months the sunscreen will last once it’s been opened.
  • It is important to remember that no sunscreen gives 100% protection against UV rays

Be aware: While many sun lotions are water resistant, they are not friction resistant and can therefore rub off when towel drying.

What to do if you get sunburn?

First and foremost, you should get out of the sun and stay indoors.  After which you can sponge sore skin with cool water and apply after sun or cooling lotion.  Wear lightweight loose clothing to avoid irritating the skin and drink plenty of water.

Be aware: Ensure to seek medical advice if you feel unwell or the skin blisters.

Heat exhaustion and Heat Stroke

Heat exhaustion is the result of over exertion in high temperatures, where you become very hot and start to lose water or salt from your body.  This leads to symptoms including feeling faint or dizzy, tiredness and weakness, headache, muscle cramps and heaving sweating.

Heat stroke is where the body is no longer able to cool itself and a person’s body temperature becomes dangerously high (sunstroke is when this is caused by prolonged exposure to direct sunlight).

Be aware: Heat exhaustion and heat stroke can be serious if not treated quickly.  Details of what to do if you notice that someone has signs of heat exhaustion can be found via NHS Choices.

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