Dr Lamah El-Sharkawi is a GP in Uplands and Mumbles Surgery and her sister Reem El-Sharkawi is a GP Pharmacist, both are part of Bay Cluster Network. This month they look at sun protection…
Whether you’re planning your luxury holiday abroad or having a stay-cation, sunburn can strike both at home and abroad. Sunburn increases your risk of skin cancer and with more than 100,000 new cases of skin cancer diagnosed every year in the UK, striking a balance of getting your vitamin D from the sunlight and protecting yourself from the sun is essential. Furthermore, prolonged warmer weather can pose serious health risks. Here we tell you how to enjoy the summer sun safely.
Sun safety tips
- In the UK the sun is at its strongest between the hours of 11am and 3pm
- Spend time in the shade between these hours
- Make sure you do not burn
- Make sure you and your children are wearing suitable clothing
- Protect your eyes in the sun by wearing sunglasses with lenses that block ultraviolet rays
- Ensure you drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration
- Use at least factor 15 sunscreen
What factor sunscreen, sun protection factor (SPF), should you buy?
It is advised that minimum SPF 15 to protect against UVB and should be at least four star UVA protection.
It is important to make sure that your suncream is not past its expiry date. Always check the shelf life before using it.
What does the SPF and star rating mean?
The SPF, sun protection factor, is a way of measuring the amount of protection of ultraviolet B (UVB) radiation.
SPFs scale from 2-50+ dependent on the amount of protection they offer, with 2 being the lowest and 50+ offering the most protection from UVB.
The star ratings measures the amount of ultraviolet A radiation (UVA) protection. The higher the rating the better the protection.
When the letters “UVA” inside a circle is seen this signifies European marking meaning that UVA protection is at least a third of the SPF value and thus meets European recommendations.
How do you apply sunscreen?
A common problem is that people do not apply enough sunscreen. Adults should aim to apply around two teaspoons of sun-screen for the head, arms and neck and a further two tablespoons to cover the entire body while wearing swimming attire.
If sunscreen is applied too thinly the amount of protection given is thus reduced. If you are notori-ously bad at applying sun-screen use a stronger SPF.
When spending time in the sun, plan ahead. Sunscreen should be applied 30 minutes before going out and repeated just before going out. It should be applied to all exposed skin and should be reapplied liberally and frequently. Even if a sunscreen states being “water resistant”, reapplying after the water is essential as towel drying and sweating may mean the sunscreen has been rubbed off.
Children and sun protection
Extra care should be taken when protecting babies and children as they have much more sensitive skin and repeated exposure to sunlight can cause lasting damage and can even lead to skin cancer later in life. Children under the age of six months should be kept out of direct sunlight.
Dealing with sunburn
Sponging sore skin with cool water and applying an after sun or calamine lotion is advised. Painkillers such as paracetamol can ease the pain caused by sunburn.
You should seek medical help if you feel unwell or the skin blisters and it is important to stay out of the sun until all signs of redness have gone.
We hope that by following our summer tips you can all have fun in the sun!