Whether you’re in the UK or abroad, it’s essential you think about sun protection before you head outside. Even if the weather is just a little warm or even seems mild, if you’re going to be walking around or relaxing in direct sunlight, you will be susceptible to numerous dangers associated with exposure to sunlight, including dehydration, sunburn, eye damage, and even skin cancer. In this article, we explore how the sun can affect your body and how to protect yourself when in the sun.
Despite being a vital source of vitamin D, which helps to ensure proper bone formation, the sun has many harmful properties that you need to watch out for and protect yourself against to prevent illness. Excessive exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet rays can burn the skin which will not only leave you in pain and as red as a fire engine but, if exposed for a prolonged period, may also cause skin cancer.
Prolonged exposure to sun’s ultraviolet rays will also cause you to sweat which may lead to dehydration, which is why it’s so important you drink plenty of water when out in the sun to prevent headaches and, in severe cases, vomiting and dizziness. If you experience signs of dehydration, make sure you top up on water and relax indoors, away from the sun’s rays to help you get back on form.
If you’re someone that’s conscious of your appearance, you should know that too much exposure to the sun will, eventually, reduce the elasticity in your skin, which will leave you with dry and wrinkled skin and, potentially, make you look well beyond your years. To stay young, keep out of the sun.
There are numerous simple precautions you can take to ensure you are safe in the sun, including:
Stay out of the sun between 11am and 3pm
In the UK between the months of March and October, the sun is at its highest and, therefore, strongest between the hours of 11am and 3pm, during which you should aim to stay in the shade. You must always practise sun safety, however, during peak times you should be extra vigilant. If you do go out in the sun, make sure you are wearing high-factor sunscreen as well as a suitable hat and sunglasses.
Apply sunscreen that is SPF 15 or more
Sunscreen won’t completely protect you from the sun, which is why you must still strive to stay in the shade during peak hours, however, it’s another protective layer. When in the sun, make sure you apply a sunscreen that has a sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 or more and, at the very least, four-star UVA protection. For children, use specially formulated kids’ sunscreen and if you’re taking a dip, use a water-resistant sunscreen but remember, even if your sunscreen is water-resistant, you need to reapply it when you get out of the water. Always make sure your sunscreen isn’t past its expiry date.
How to apply sunscreen: It sounds simple, however, it’s important you apply your sunscreen correctly to ensure you benefit. Use at least two tablespoons of sunscreen to cover your entire body and do so 30-minutes before leaving the house and then again before you head outside. You should apply the sunscreen to all areas of your body exposed to the sun, including the top of your head and hairline.
Drink plenty of water
When exposed to the sun’s heat, you will sweat which means your body loses vital fluid which you need to top up throughout the day. When spending time in the sun, drink water regularly to prevent dehydration, which may cause headaches and, possibly, dizziness and sickness. When going to the toilet, your urine should be a very light shade of yellow, which indicates you’re drinking enough.
Protect your eyes
Your skin is the most obvious worry when it the sun, however, you must protect your eyes, too. If you have been in direct sunlight without eye protection, you may experience a stinging session on the surface of your eyes, similar to sunburn. When swimming, wear tinted goggles and, at all other times, sunglasses with at least 99-percent protection against both UVA and UVB light. Also, avoid looking directly at the sun to prevent damaging your retinas which could, potentially, cause lasting damage.
Wear suitable clothing
As well as sporting a pair of protective goggles or sunglasses, try and reduce the amount of skin exposed to the sun to reduce the chances of sunburn and, long-term, skin cancer. You should always wear a cap or, better still, a wide-brimmed hat that shades your face, neck and ears, as well as a long sleeve top and trousers or a long skirt. If you’re worried about getting too hot in the sun, choose breathable fabrics such as linen to keep you cool and comfortable, although close-weave fabrics such as organic cotton are preferable as the fabric will reflect UV rays rather than absorbing them.
Due to the harm prolonged exposure to ultraviolet rays can cause, we advise against using sunbeds.
Especially if you have paler skin, freckles, or red or fair hair, you should take extra care in the sun as it’s likely you will burn easier than those with darker skin. Also, if you’re not used to intense levels of sunshine, try and stay in the shade as you will be more susceptible to dehydration and burning.
The above sun protection tips follow the guidelines of the Skin Cancer Foundation; however, there are a few extra steps you can take to help prevent skin cancer and, importantly, be aware of skin cancer. Firstly, make sure you reapply sunscreen every two hours when out in the sun, and more so if you’re sweating or swimming. Also, if you’re out with the family, make sure newborns up to six months’ old are key out of the sun entirely as they are particularly susceptible to the sun’s harmful properties.
As will all types of cancer, it’s important that you can identify symptoms as early as possible. Typically, skin cancer will appear as a birthmark or mole-like variants on the skin. The spots may change colour from brown to black and, possibly, develop lumps. The mole or spot may also increase in size.
If you experience any symptoms associated with skin cancer, it’s essential you visit your doctor as soon as possible for a full check. To keep on top of skin cancer, examine your skin from head-to-toe once a month and, if possible, have your skin examined by your physician every year. If you use UV sunbeds or regularly expose yourself to the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays, make sure you’re especially vigilant.
Whether you’re embracing the sun for five or 50 minutes, make sure you take the necessary precautions to ensure you are fully protected and, therefore, less susceptible to skin cancer.