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Staying safe in the sun and after-sun care

Dad and son watering plants in the garden on a sunny day
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Longer days and warmer weather means you are likely to be spending more time outdoors, whether that’s part of your unlimited exercise or just enjoying your garden or balcony.

While the temperature is not as intense in the UK as it is abroad, it’s important to remember that the sun can burn the skin and cause lasting damage, especially for those who have sensitive skin.

Affects of being in the sun

Overexposure to UV-A, UV-B and IR-A rays can cause damage to your skin which can result in burning or premature ageing. Not only can sunburn cause discomfort but it can lead to more unpleasant conditions, including rosacea exacerbations or more serious issues including skin cancer.

The easiest way to avoid skin damage is to limit the amount of time spent in the sun, but that’s easier said than done for some, particularly if you work outdoors.

However,  exposure to the sun can have some benefits, such as providing much needed vitamin D and increased levels of serotonin – the happy hormone!

Knowing exactly how much is too much when it comes to time in the sun can be tricky, that’s why we’ve put together some ‘Sun Smart’ tips to help you stay safe in the sun.

10 sun smart tips

  1. Reapply sun cream a minimum of every 2 hours
  2. Reapply sun cream after swimming, exercise, sweating and towelling
  3. Wear water resistant sun cream while swimming
  4. Use an amount of sun cream equivalent to the size of a golf ball or 6 teaspoons to cover your entire body
  5. Don’t forget your ears!
  6. Seek shade whenever possible especially between the hours of 11am and 3pm
  7. Wear protective loose fitting clothing including a sun hat
  8. Don’t forget to protect your eyes! Choose sunglasses that protect your eyes against UV
  9. Drink plenty of water. Dehydrated skin is more prone to sun damage
  10. If you have a history of sun damage or skin cancer you should always wear the highest sun protection factor and seek shade where and whenever possible

Looking after your skin after you've been in the sun

If you’ve been sun burnt your skin might be red, hot or sore. It may also flake and peel after a few days. It usually gets better within 7 days, but there are things you can do at home to treat it.

  • Get out of the sun as soon as you can if you notice your skin going pink, red or stinging
  • When you get home, try to cool off your skin with a cool shower, bath, or damp towel. Take care not to let a baby or young child get too cold
  • Apply after sun cream or spray, like aloe vera to help soothe your skin
  • Make sure you drink plenty of water to cool down and prevent dehydration
  • If you have any pain, take pain relief like paracetamol or ibuprofen
  • Make sure you cover any sunburnt skin from direct sunlight until your skin has completely healed.

When to seek help

You should be able to treat most sun burnt skin at home, but you should speak to your GP or call NHS 111 as soon as you can if:

  • Your skin is blistered or swollen
  • Your temperature is very high, or you feel hot and shivery
  • You feel very tired, dizzy and sick
  • You’re experiencing headaches and muscle cramps
  • Your baby or young child has sunburn

References

www.nhs.uk/live-well/healthy-body/sunscreen-and-sun-safety
www.nhs.uk/conditions/sunburn