Staying safe in the sun

Many of us a fully aware that our skin can suffer if it is exposed to excessive amounts of sunshine, something that we often go on holiday in order to find.

Applying sun cream and wearing a sun hat are obvious measures that we can all take when heading to sunnier destinations, but these are not the only things that you should do. The heat from the sun can have more debilitating effects than simply causing sunburn.

Here, we’ll take a look at some points you may not have considered. For more advice, see the NHS Sunscreen and Sun Safety page.

Sunscreen
For some, the only measure they take against the harmful UV rays that the sun throws out is to use a sunscreen, typically when they hit the beach. However, you should try to get into the habit of applying a sun cream before you head out, so that you can make sure your body is fully covered, particularly if you intend getting down to your swimsuit at some point.

Medical advice states that you should apply sunscreen half an hour before going out into the sun. The NHS recommends choosing a sun cream that is rated with at least SPF of 15 and at least four-star UVA rating (five-star cream is available too). Other creams might help, but not provide such strong protection. You should frequently reapply the protection, according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Don’t forget that you can also get sunburn when it is cloudy!

If you don’t get on well with sun creams – perhaps you find them sticky or unpleasant – then you can now also get sprays that spray a liquid sunscreen. This can be more pleasant for some people than a cream, but sometimes the sprays are alcohol-based and can dry the skin a little.

Protect your eyes
As well as protecting your skin, it is important to make sure that your eyes are fully safe. Exposure to bright sunshine can lead to problems with your eyes such as cataracts. Therefore, invest in a good pair of sunglasses. Adequate ones will have a CE mark or a UV400 label on them. This way, you can be assured that they offer full UV protection. If you find that you are still squinting, then seek some shade or wear a brimmed hat to help offer your eyes more shelter.

Taking medicines? Take extra care in the sun!
Fair-skinned people, those with freckles or lots of moles, and children need to consider sun protection more than other groups.

However, some routinely taken medicines can also put you at risk. If you are taking a tetracycline, an oral hypoglycaemic drug or a diuretic, for example, take additional care or seek specific medical advice.

Heat exhaustion and heatstroke
To avoid these unpleasant and potentially serious conditions, drink plenty of water and avoid excessive activity in the heat of the midday sun.

For first aid if you suspect these conditions:

  • Lie down in a cool place
  • Remove any unnecessary clothing
  • Cool your skin with wet towels or wet sheets
  • Drink fluids, including water and a rehydration drink
  • Consider getting professional medical attention

It’s useful to take rehydration sachets on holiday: not only will they help if you get heat exhaustion or heatstroke, but if you get a dodgy tummy they can also be useful!

For more detailed advice, see the NHS advice on heat exhaustion and heatstroke.