There’s nothing better than getting outdoors on a sunny day. Whether you’re on holiday lazing by the pool or out breaking a sweat on a bike, there’s plenty to do in the summer months that’ll make you want to make the most of it all. Despite the fun in the sun, it’s essential that you’re aware of the risks of spending time in the sun. For us Brits, we laugh and make jokes about burning our skin but really, this can lead to detrimental health issues including severe burns, sunstroke and with prolonged regular exposure, can even lead to skin cancer. Click here to read more.
It’s not all doom and gloom, you can still go outdoors and enjoy the sun by simply following some very easy steps. We’re going to lay down some top tips on how to keep safe in the sun and look at what you should do if it starts to take its toll.
The chances are you’ve experienced sunburn at some point in your life – pretty much all of us have. It’s unpleasant to say the least, but this prolonged exposure to the sun can have other, more serious repercussions. Heatstroke and heat exhaustion are more extreme than sunburn but can potentially be life-threatening if left untreated.
Even further exposure to the sun can increase the chances of you developing skin cancer.
Sunburn is caused by radiation from UV rays and will damage your skin, leading to redness, pain and itchiness.
The affected area will become warm and tender to the touch and after some time, the skin may flake and peel. It’s easy to get burnt in the sun and you may not notice the onset of sunburn immediately as a breeze on a hike or a dip in the water may cool you down and hide the warning signs.
Heat exhaustion and heatstroke are less common and exhibit more extreme reactions. Spending hours in the heat and under the sun can leave you dehydrated with your body temperature becoming too warm. This can cause you to be dizzy and sick, and in extreme cases, can cause the sufferer to become confused, have a seizure, pass out and in the worst cases, succumb to death.
While sun exposure is not the direct cause of skin cancer, it greatly increases your risks of developing it. Fair-skinned people are much more likely to develop the melanomas that cause skin cancer. If you have moles and freckles, this is a sign that your skin is susceptible.
While you may think tanning is fine, tanning is actually a reaction to skin damage, so if you feel you may be at risk of skin cancer, tanning is not such a good idea.
So, who’s most at risk in heatwave weather? Of course extreme heat can affect anyone but those most vulnerable include:
- Children – particularly babies and toddlers.
- Elderly – especially for those over 75.
- Those who live on their own or in a care home.
- People who have long term illnesses including heart or lung conditions.
- People who are exposed to it regularly e.g. work outside
Always ask yourself:
- Are they drinking enough water?
- Do they have access to air conditioning?
- Do they need help keeping cool?
Preventing damage from the sun is easy if you adhere to several simple protective measures.
- Always drink plenty of water and fluids even if you don’t feel dehydrated or thirsty.
- Wear loose, lightweight summer clothing.
- Make sure you’re wearing SPF, suncream, sunscreen… whatever you like to call it.
- Take breaks from the sun’s UV rays and stay in a shaded area or air conditioned location.
- Never leave children or pets in cars.
- Stay cool indoors and limit your time outdoors.
- Try and keep out of the sun between peak times (11am-3pm)
First of all, you should wear clothing which will keep you sheltered from the sun’s harmful rays. Naturally, in summer people want to keep it light but throwing on a sun hat and sunglasses will go a long way in providing a basic layer of protection. A long-sleeved top will offer lots of protection but the chances are you’ll opt for short sleeves and shorts to escape the heat.
We would recommend rash vests also known as aussie or UV tops to wear in the sun when you’re spending the day by the water. These are great for children and will make the world of difference when it comes to essential protection against sunburn as well as avoiding abrasions and rashes from rough sand or debris in the water. If you’re looking for a coordinated top and bottom, we have our Smiley swim set designed with UV protection 40+.
To cover up those areas of exposed skin, you’re going to need to use sunscreen. Many people apply sunscreen incorrectly and as a result, don’t receive the protection they need. You should apply sunscreen liberally – lots and lots – so don’t be shy.
You should do this shortly before going out into the sun, and make sure to cover every exposed area on your body. Even if there are clouds overhead, you’ll still need protection from UV rays and you also need to remember to reapply every couple of hours and more regularly if you’re in the water.
Other ways for preventing risky behaviour in the sun is to make sure you keep well-hydrated and cool yourself down. Plus, don’t spend too long out in the sun, even with sunscreen; the sun is at its peak between 11am and 3pm so try and avoid prolonged time outdoors between these hours. Extreme physical exertion can also cause heat exhaustion when it’s particularly warm outside.
You should be aware of any moles on your body that are exposed to the sun when outside, and take extra care to protect them even further than the rest of your exposed skin. You can get excellent information from the NHS website on the danger signs and what to do in the event you observe significant changes in your moles.
As mentioned before, make sure to wear sunscreen and if you fit into the category of people who are most easily affected, you should use a higher SPF such as 45 or 50.
Sometimes it’s difficult to avoid sunburn and if you haven’t prepared properly beforehand, you may find you’re burnt quickly. If you notice you are becoming burnt, quickly get out of the sun or cover the affected area until you can get into the shade.
You can take ibuprofen or paracetamol to help reduce the inflammation and apply after-sun lotion to the burnt area to soothe it and alleviate the pain. You can also apply a cool, damp sponge to soothe the skin.
If you or someone else is exhibiting signs of sunstroke or heat exhaustion, there are several steps you should take. Find somewhere out of the sun to lie down and rest with plenty of water to prevent dehydration. Take off any extra layers that are keeping you warm and wipe yourself down with a damp sponge.
Fan yourself to help evaporate the water as this in turn aids cooling. You can help others affected with heatstroke or exhaustion too and seek help if you feel you are exhibiting symptoms. If these symptoms do not abate or symptoms become more severe you should call an ambulance or head for the emergency room.
Signs of skin cancer can be very minor and difficult to notice. If you have lots of moles and freckles, you should avoid over-exposure to begin with but you should look out for other signs of changes or new moles appearing. If you see changes in colour, size or shape, you should see your GP and have them checked.
This might all seem a little terrifying but we want to make sure you can enjoy the sun safely. It’s easy to keep yourself protected but it’s also easy for you to forget these steps and throw caution to the wind.
Whether you’re enjoying the rare sunny days here in the UK or heading somewhere exotic, make sure you’re always well-prepared.