Safe exposure to the sun helps our bodies produce vitamin D which increases the absorption of calcium for developing strong and healthy bones. Alongside a healthy diet, only small bursts of sun exposure is sufficient for enough vitamin D for our bodies (2).
When we are exposed to too much sun we are susceptible to skin damage (including sunburn, increased ageing and wrinkles), eye damage, immune system suppression and skin cancer (i.e. melanoma) (2). Increased time in the sun and intensity of the sun rays increase our risk of damage. As a country filled with beaches and strong UV rays, Australia has one of the highest rates of skin cancer in the world (1).
Everyone needs to protect themselves from sun damage. Our body contains melanin which helps to absorb UV rays to prevent skin damage. The darker your natural skin tone, the more melanin present to protect the skin. If your skin is fairer you need to take more precautions to prevent skin damage from time in the sun (2).
Here are some tips on how to safely enjoy time in the sun:
1. Slip on protective clothing.
Cover as much skin as possible with clothing such as long sleeve t-shirts and long pants, so there is minimal direct skin exposure to the sun (1).
2. Slop on sunscreen.
Apply a broad spectrum (i.e. filters through both UVA and UVB rays), water resistant sunscreen which is SPF 30 or SPF 50, 20 minutes prior to going out in the sun. You should reapply sunscreen every two hours, or after going in the water, playing sports, or wiping your skin with a towel (1).
It’s recommended to apply around 5ml (or 1tsp) of sunscreen per body part (1).
3. Slap on a hat.
Find a wide brim hat which covers your face, but also covers areas that are commonly forgotten to cover with sunscreen such as your neck, ears and scalp (3).
4. Seek shade.
When heading outdoors bring a shade or find a tree to sit under to protect your skin from direct sunlight (4).
5. Slide on a pair of sunglasses.
Find a pair of sunglasses which block 99-100% of UBA and UVB rays to prevent eye damage such as cataracts (3).
6. Check the UV index first.
Before heading outside google the UV index for the day. It is recommended that any levels above 3 require sun protection, with higher index levels equaling the more protection required (1).
7. Check your current medications.
Check that you or your children aren’t currently taking any medications which make your skin more sensitive to UV rays as this makes your skin more likely to burn. If you are on such medications, make sure to take extra precautions to protect your skin (2).
8. How to treat sunburn.
- Take a cool bath or shower to relieve the heat, redness and pain.
- Apply aloe vera gel to reduce heat, pain and increase healing.
- Take an anti-inflammatory such as ibuprofen to relieve pain and itching.
- Apply moisturiser to rehydrate the skin and reduce itching.
- Avoid using creams with irritants which may aggravate the pain and itching (2).
9. Watch your skin for changes.
Regularly check your skin for any changes in the form of moles, lumps or colour changes which could indicate something is wrong (3). Don’t hesitate to get your skin checked by a doctor if you have any concerns.
10. Stay hydrated.
Make sure to increase your water intake during and after time in the sun to prevent dehydration.
Here are some helpful tips on how to make sure you stay safe while having fun in the sun. We hope you all have a safe and happy summer.
For more health tips visit our website here https://simplyhealthandwellness.com.au/health-tips/
(1) Cancer Council Australia. Preventing skin caner, https://www.cancer.org.au/cancer-information/causes-and-prevention/sun-safety/preventing-skin-cancer
(2) Cronan, K.M. 2017. Sun safety, Kids Health. https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/sun-safety.html
(3) Lee, N.C. 2015. 7 tips for staying safe in the sun, Women’s Health. https://www.womenshealth.gov/blog/7-tips-sun-safety