Staying safe in the sun
Enjoy sunny weather, but know when you’ve had enough!
In Britain, the slightest hint of a sunny sky is enough to bring flocks of us outdoors in our shorts and flip flops. The trouble is, we just don’t know how long it will last, which is when health problems arise as people are reluctant to miss out, and end up overdoing things.
During our recent spell of gorgeous weather, we needed to deal with several cases where people just couldn’t tell that they had had too much sun. In this usually temperate island of ours it’s part of our psyche to try to stay in the sun for as long as we can to ‘get a tan’ but, unfortunately, unlike countries which are consistently hot and sunny, and know how to manage their health in this type of climate, as a nation we don’t have the experience or the consistent education to know how to self-regulate ourselves in the same way. Yes, we have seen the adverts for sunscreen on TV and heard the terms heat exhaustion and heat stroke but, for many of us, the need for a tan seems to override any advice and warnings given.
Always use a sunscreen
This is one thing that most people have become used to buying, but many of us are still not using it in the most effective way. Choose any brand; it doesn’t have to be the most expensive, with a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of at least 15, and at least SPF 30 for children. Look for one with a broad spectrum – the more stars the better. When applying sunscreen use around 2 tablespoons for your whole body…don’t forget the little areas like ears, temples and the back of the neck. Avoid using old sunscreen, too, as it loses its effectiveness with age.
What is SPF?
This is a measure of how long you can stay in the sun without burning. However, it is a guideline, and everyone’s skin is different. For instance, let’s say you usually burn after 10 minutes without any sunscreen on; if you wear SPF 30, then ‘theoretically’ you can times 10 x 30 = 300 minutes. Again, it must be stressed that this is just a guide. Don’t fall into the trap of false security just because the label has a high SPF – those of us with very fair skin may need to take themselves out of the sun much sooner than this and cover up! You will be reducing your risk of developing melanomas now and in the future if you take care of your skin in the sun.
It goes against our nature to cover up when it’s so sunny and others around us are soaking it up, but don’t take any notice of them, think about yourself and your own health. Wear a hat, and a t-shirt. Drink plenty of water to keep yourself hydrated. Dehydration from the sun can cause all sorts of problems, for instance, headaches, nausea and dizziness.
Where possible, avoid the sun between 11am and 3pm as this is when the sun’s UV rays are at their strongest.
I have added a couple of useful links to pages on the St John Ambulance website that show how to deal with heat exhaustion and heat stroke, both of which should be treated as medical emergencies:
Heat exhaustion is caused by a loss of water, salt and electrolytes from the body. It is generally caused by excessive sweating. It pays to mention here that heat exhaustion can happen away from the sun too, for instance at a party, event, or festival where people become very hot.
Heatstroke is caused by the body being unable to regulate its temperature. It can follow on from heat exhaustion – the body can become so dehydrated that it stops sweating. Because this is the way the body regulates its temperature, it can no longer cool down, so heat stroke can develop –in a very short space of time.
We want you to enjoy our lovely weather – honest! We just want you to be careful and keep yourself and your loved ones safe in the sun.
For more information, and to see how we can help you, please visit our website, ABC Training Services Ltd.
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