‘Protect yourself from the sun this summer’
Terry Vine is deputy chief nurse at NHS Lincolnshire West Clinical Commissioning Group. Here he talks about the importance of sun safety and how to protect our skin from the sun…
We all hope that summer is on its way and with that comes hot sunny weather. For most of us, there is nothing better than a barbecue in the garden when the sun is out, or a day at the beach or by the pool.
But sometimes, we can forget about the most important thing – looking after ourselves.
As summer arrives, many of us dream of that perfect tan and spending time in the sun seems the ideal way to achieve it.
Yet we often strive for that tan at the expense of looking after our skin. After all, sunburn increases your risk of skin cancer and doesn’t just happen when we are on our holidays – you can even burn in the UK.
This Sun Awareness Week, which runs from May 14 to 20, please think about what you can do to keep safe in the sun.
There’s no safe or healthy way to get a tan. A tan doesn’t protect your skin from the sun’s harmful effects. You should be aiming to strike a balance between protecting yourself from the sun, while getting enough vitamin D from sunlight.
People with pale, white or light brown skin, freckles or fair hair and have many moles should be extra careful.
Our hair – or lack of – only provides minimal protection from the sun and we can’t rely on sunscreen alone to protect ourselves from the sun.
Make sure you protect your scalp, preferably by wearing a hat. Sunglasses should offer some protection against UV rays and good sunglasses should indicate the amount of UV that they filter out.
Some budget sunglasses offer no UV protection and it is the same as wearing no sunglasses.
However, sunscreen is an important protection in addition to the other measures – so much so that you must ensure it is not past its expiry date. Many sunscreen products have a shelf life of two to three years.
Most people don’t apply enough sunscreen. As a guide, adults should aim to apply around two teaspoons of sunscreen if you’re just covering your head, arms and neck and two tablespoons if you’re covering your entire body while wearing a swimming costume.
If you plan to be out in the sun long enough to risk burning, sunscreen needs to be applied twice. This is half an hour before going out and just before going out.
Make sure you cover all exposed skin, including the face, neck and ears – and your head if you have thinning or no hair.
You should also reapply it after you have been in water, even if it claims to be water resistant.
I would also like to remind people to take extra care to protect babies and children. Their skin is much more sensitive than adult skin, and damage caused by repeated exposure to sunlight could lead to skin cancer developing in later life.
Children aged under six months should be kept out of direct strong sunlight.
If you do burn, sponge the sore skin with cool water, before applying soothing aftersun or calamine lotion.
A number of medications, in combination with the rays of the sun, can leave you with a severe rash or blistering sunburn.
Some drugs may even speed up the time it takes you to burn when you’re spending time outdoors. If the reaction is serious, you may need to start using a different medication or at least taking extra precautions to protect your skin from the sun.
Please speak to your pharmacy if taking regular medications to see if what you are taking may leave you more prone to sunburn.
Painkillers, such as paracetamol or ibuprofen, will ease the pain by helping to reduce inflammation caused by sunburn, but please follow the advice on the packet.
I hope everyone enjoys the weather we will hopefully get this summer, but please remember to stay safe and protect yourself.