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Health Wise: How to stay safe in the sun

Yes, we’re aware that the British summertime doesn’t tend to last long, but when the sun does come out, it’s all too tempting to make the most of it while you can. But that comes with its risks.

Monday 14th to Sunday 20th May is Sun Awareness Week. Over these 7 days, the British Association of Dermatologists (BAD) aim to raise awareness of the dangers associated with exposure to Ultra Violet (UV) rays and educate people on how to stay safe in the sun.

An unhealthy relationship

As part of Sun Awareness Week, the BAD revealed the results of a survey into the attitudes of UK people towards tanning and sunbathing. It found that 84 percent of dermatologists think that Brits have an unhealthy relationship with tanning.

An image of a beach full of people sun bathing.

While previous surveys highlighted the fact that people in the UK were aware of the risks of excessive sun exposure, behaviours haven’t changed to reflect this. In fact, skin cancer rates continue to rise, with 16,000 new cases of melanoma being diagnosed every year, resulting in around 2,285 UK deaths.

To recognise Sun Awareness Week, and as part of our commitment to providing clients with occupational health services that benefit the health and wellbeing of employees, we’ve put together our top tips on how to stay safe in the sun.

Fusion’s Top Sun Safety Tips

1.      Stay in the shade

When the sun is at its strongest, between 11am and 3pm in the summer months, make sure that you find a shady spot. This could be under a tree, umbrella or parasol, or simply by staying indoors.

An image of a couple on a beach, sitting in deck chairs with a sun umbrella.

Babies and very young children should especially avoid direct sun exposure.

Even in the shade, it’s important to protect your skin by using sunscreen or wearing the right kind of clothing.

2.      Check UV Levels

Ultra Violet (UV) rays are what cause sunburn. The more UV your skin is exposed to, the more likely you are to burn.

An  image of a woman demonstrating how UV protection works.

Luckily, the BAD created the World UV App. Using data from the Met Office, it tells you what the UV levels are in your area and gives you recommendations on how much sun protection you should use.

It’s free to download for iOS or Android.

3.      Apply sunscreen

Everyone knows that they should apply sunscreen when it starts to get hot. Containing chemicals that interact with the skin to protect it from UV rays, they work by absorbing, reflecting, or scattering sunlight.

It’s important to put plenty on. Many people don’t apply enough. You should use around two teaspoons for the head, arms and neck and the same for the rest of the body when wearing a swimming costume.

An image of a woman applying sunscreen in the shape of a heart.

It should be applied half an hour before going out and again before you head out into the sun. It then needs to be re-applied liberally and frequently, especially after you’ve been in the water and dried yourself with a towel.

If your skin reacts badly to one product, try another or call a doctor.

4.      Know your SPFs

All sunscreens have a sun protection factor (SPF) number. This rates their effectiveness in blocking UV rays and higher numbers indicate more protection.

An image of sun screen bottles.

Make sure that the label of your sunscreen has an SPF of at least 15 and four-star UVA protection. This can also be indicated by the letters "UVA" in a circle, which indicates that it meets the EU standard.

Most sunscreens have a shelf life of two to three years, so make sure it’s not past its expiry date.

It’s important to remember that you shouldn’t rely solely on sunscreen to stay safe in the sun.

5.      Wear the right clothes

It’s always tempting to show a bit of flesh when the sun comes out. Just make sure that your skin isn’t always in direct sunlight.

Long-sleeved shirts with long trousers and skirts can provide protection from UV rays. Clothes made from tightly woven fabric offer the best protection and darker colours can offer more protection than lighter colours.

An image of summer beach clothes.

However, we do realise that wearing this can be impractical in warm weather. So just make sure that you have something to cover up from the sun.

It’s worth remembering that a typical T-shirt has an SPF rating lower than 15, and a wet t-shirt even less, so it’s important to use other types of protection as well.

6.      Keep it under your hat

For maximum protection, wear a hat with a brim that shades your face, ears, and the back of your neck. Tightly woven fabrics like canvas work best to protect your skin.

Avoid straw hats with holes that let sunlight through and, if you wear a baseball cap, protect your ears and the back of your neck with sunscreen.

An image containing icons of sun hats and sun glasses.

7.      Protect your eyes

Did you know that you can actually burn the surface of your eye? Reflected light from sand or water is particularly dangerous and you should never look directly at the sun.

Sunglasses will protect your eyes from UV rays and also protect the tender skin around your eyes.

Wrap-around sunglasses or ones with wide arms work best because they block the rays from sneaking in either side. Look out for sunglasses with the CE Mark and European Standard EN 1836:2005.

8.      Know when to take extra care

Certain people need to be more aware of how to stay safe in the sun.

You should follow our sun safety tips to the letter if you:

  • have pale, white or light brown skin
  • have freckles or red or fair hair
  • tend to burn rather than tan
  • have many moles
  • have skin problems relating to a medical condition
  • are only exposed to intense sun occasionally – for example, while on holiday
  • are in a hot country where the sun is particularly intense
  • have a family history of skin cancer

Don‘t Bake – Bake!

As part of Sun Awareness Week, the British Association of Dermatologists has launched The 'Don't Bake' Bake. It’s encouraging everyone to bake some home-made goodies, rather than their skin in the sun and raising awareness of the sun safety tips that will stop it from happening.

Teaching people how to stay safe in the sun is just one of the ways organisations can improve the health and well-being of their staff.

If you’d like to see how our occupational health services can help your business do the same, get in touch today.

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Categories: EmployeesHealth & WellbeingHealth WiseOccupational Health

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