Health experts urge the public to stay safe in the sun

Text size:

With the unpredictable mix of ‘British’ weather so far, it’s all too easy to forget that summer’s almost here.  But just because the sun isn’t shining it doesn’t mean that you’re safe from the sun’s harmful rays.  So, to tie in with Sun Awareness Week (9 – 16 May), NHS health experts are offering safety advice to the public to keep them safe in the sun.

Sunburn doesn’t just happen when you’re on holiday.  You can burn when you least expect it.  Sitting in the garden, walking the dog or tending the garden are just a few activities that can catch you off guard, even if it’s cloudy or cool.

With more than 2,000 people a year dying from malignant melanoma it’s even more important to take precautions1.

Prof Nick Harding OBE, Chair of Sandwell and West Birmingham CCG and local GP, said: “A moderate amount of sunshine is recommended for all of us.  It provides essential vitamin D, which we need for good health, to improve our mood and to help promote better sleep.  But too much sun can be damaging.  So, protecting ourselves from the sun not only prevents painful sunburn but also significantly reduces the risk of developing skin cancer later in life.

“Even if it’s cloudy or overcast you can still burn, so make sure you apply sun screen before you go out.  Take it with you so you can top up throughout the day.”

“The sun’s rays are at their strongest between 11am and 3pm, so try to avoid exposing your skin to too much sun during these times.  Make sure you apply a sunscreen that protects you against harmful UVA and UVB rays.  A sun protection factor [SPF] of 50 gives the best protection.

“Other things to consider are covering up with loose clothing, such as a baggy t-shirt with sleeves.  Your shoulders and neck are the most common areas for sunburn.  A floppy hat with a wide brim will also help to shade your face and neck and sunglasses will protect your eyes.  But be sure to check they meet the British Standard (BSEN 1836:2005) and carry the "CE" mark.”

Minor sunburn is best treated at home by gently sponging with cool water and applying soothing after sun or calamine lotion.  Your local pharmacy can advise on the best over the counter treatment to help ease symptoms and reduce inflammation.

If you feel unwell or have any concerns about your sunburn, particularly if you are burnt over a large area, have blistering or swelling of the skin, chills, dizziness, sickness or a high temperature (fever) of 38C (100.4F) or above, visit your local NHS walk in centre or call NHS111 - available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.  Just dial 111 and you’ll be put through to someone who can tell where you can go for help.

And remember, if you notice any changes to moles or unusual skin growths make sure you speak to your GP.

For further information on how to keep safe in the sun, visit http://www.nhs.uk