With the hot weather soon approaching us at long last, we’re more than ready to say our farewells to coats and umbrellas, and embrace the higher temperatures. Particularly when we’re off on our long-awaited summer holiday.
Of course, counting down to summer is natural to most, but it’s just as easy to forget its health risks. With 42 new cases of skin cancer being documented daily in the UK (Cancer Research UK), where skin damage is preventable, it’s surely worth noting how to avoid it. Even if that does mean limiting your sunbathing and embracing the shade that bit more instead. After all, sun damage could easily ruin your holiday.
Here are four of our tips on how to stay safe in the hot weather…
1) Stay in the shade during peak times
While the afternoon is the time of day we’re likely to be outside doing things, it’s also the time where temperatures are at their highest.
Skin disorders, including sunburn, are the fifth most claimed for condition needing medical support while on holiday.*
2018 proved that us Brits don’t need to travel far to feel the heat. Last year, the UK experienced its hottest summer on record, with the highest temperature of 35.3°C. So, even if you’re not travelling abroad this summer, keeping safe in the sun is a must.
In order to avoid sunburn, dehydration and heat stroke, it’s best for us to stay out of the sun between 11am and 3pm.
Easy ways to stay out the sun include sitting in the shade with your book for a while, covering up with a t-shirt to protect your skin, or staying in doors for a while. Just because the sun is out, doesn’t mean you have to be outside constantly. It’s important to take ‘rest breaks’!
But, rest assured, this doesn’t mean the day is over by 4pm.
Thanks to Daylight Saving Hours, in June and July the sun won’t set until after 9pm. So, you can still enjoy the sunshine at a more comfortable temperature, and a healthier one for our skin too!
2) Avoiding heat stroke
While sunburn is an obvious, visible reaction to heat damage, a less notable, but more serious aftermath of too long in the sun is heat stroke.
There are two types of illness as an effect of the sun, one less severe than the other.
Heat exhaustion, usually not as threatening as heatstroke, includes the symptoms of headache, dizziness, feeling sick and excessive sweating, whereby you should cool down within 30 minutes.
If heat exhaustion turns into heat stroke, it needs to be treated as an emergency and requires serious medical attention.
If the person isn’t feeling better after 30 minutes, loses consciousness, has a temperature that’s risen to 40°C or above or has a high temperature without sweating, it’s vital to call for an ambulance.
Ways to avoid heatstroke include drinking plenty of fluids consistently throughout the day, wearing loose-fitting clothing, never staying/sitting in a parked car in direct sunlight and stay in the shade during the hottest parts of the day (as mentioned above.)
We all enjoy the sunshine and aiming for a ‘good tan’ is an annual trend, but prioritising your health is essential during high temperatures.
3) Dealing with the dreaded sun-burn
Most of us have experienced the disappointment and frustration that comes with spending a day at the beach or by the pool.
Laying in the sun for hours, cooling off in the sea, and forgetting to reapply sunscreen. The consequence of this being coming home to red-raw flaking skin and soreness. Of course, sunburn doesn’t look or feel good, and is very uncomfortable! But we often forget the long-term damage we’re doing to our skin every time we forget to protect it.
In the UK, we should use at least a factor 15 sunscreen, and a higher factor if you have a pale complexion. When shopping for sunscreen, look for a four-star UVA protection (meaning it meets the EU standard requirement) rating on the bottle. Always remember to check that your sunscreen is in date – most sunscreens have a shelf life of two to three years. After the use-by date, their protection is no longer effective.
A useful tip may be to label your suncream when you start to use it, to remind you of when it needs replacing.
According to Cancer Research UK, most skin cancers are caused by exposure to the sun. In 2015 alone, around 142,100 cases of non melanoma skin cancer were diagnosed in the UK, which makes it the most common type of cancer by far.
So, where health risks are preventable, they’re definitely worth recognising and avoiding. With the right precautions in place, you can enjoy the sun sensibly, with the reassurance that you’re not harming your wellbeing as a consequence.
4) Debunking the myths
‘But what about Vitamin D?’ is the common response to being told to stay out the sun that bit more often. It’s known that we absorb Vitamin D from exposure to the sun, but whether the sun is the safest way for us to get this is debatable.
Instead, David J. Leffell, a Yale Medicine dermatologist stresses that there has been a lot of misinformation about Vitamin D and that the claims of needing sun exposure everyday to produce enough Vitamin D to be healthy just isn’t true. He says “We know that UVB light causes skin cancer and that protecting yourself against it makes sense. As a doctor who treats patients who have melanomas, I want the general public to be advised that under no circumstances can use of a tanning bed or tanning in general be justified on the basis of vitamin D.”
Overexposure to the sun isn’t worth risking, particularly if the reason to justify over-exposure is ‘for Vitamin D.’ Instead, ensuring you have enough Vitamin D in your diet is the safest and healthiest approach to take.
You shouldn’t avoid sunscreen when outdoors in strong sunlight. Dr. Insogna from Yale Medicine supports this, stressing that “Because skin cancer, particularly melanoma, can be such a devastating disease, it’s best to use sunblock when outdoors in strong sunlight for any prolonged length of time. Because this may limit the amount of vitamin D you get from sun exposure, make sure your diet includes sources of vitamin D from foods or supplements.”
Just because sunscreen limits the amount of Vitamin D you absorb, doesn’t mean you should avoid sun protection altogether. Instead, remember to apply a strong factor sunscreen and ensure your diet has vitamin dense foods. Both your skin and your bones will thank you for it!