Mercer's Medical Centre | General Practice & Family Medicine

Mercer's Medical Centre

General Practice & Family Medicine

Staying safe in the sun

Sun burn and Sun Stroke

Short term overexposure to sun can cause burning. The skin becomes red, hot and painful. After a few days the burnt skin may peel. A cool shower or bath and soothing creams such as calamine lotion will help. Paracetamol will help with pain. A mild steroid cream may be advised by a pharmacist or doctor to reduce inflammation in the skin. 

If vomiting, fever and headaches occur this may be due to sunstroke. If this occurs make sure you have plenty to drink to prevent dehydration. Paracetamol or ibuprofen will help to ease headaches and fever. Consult a doctor if it does not quickly settle.

How can I protect skin from the sun?

Avoid the sun as much as possible when the sun is strong
When in Northern Europe, stay in the shade or indoors as much as possible between 11 am and 3 pm in the summer months (May to September). This applies all year round in hotter countries nearer to the equator. This middle time of the day is when the sun's ray's are the strongest. Trees, umbrellas, canopies, etc, provide good shade. 

Cover up

Cover up the body as much as possible when you are out in the sunshine. 

  • Wear wide brimmed hats with a brim that goes all around the hat to protect the face and neck. These are the areas most commonly affected by sun damage. Baseball caps are not so good as they shade the face but not the neck, lower face and ears. Young children should wear hats with neck protectors too. 
  • Wear loose baggy T-shirts (or even better - long sleeve tops) and baggy shorts. The material should be tightly woven; this blocks sunlight. 
  • Wear wrap around sunglasses (your eyes can get sun damage too). Make sure the sunglasses are ones which protect against UV light. 

Use factor 15+ sunscreen (sunblock) liberally

You should apply sunscreen with an SPF (Sun Protection Factor) of at least 15. Be sure to cover areas which are sometimes missed such as the lips, ears, around eyes, neck, scalp if hair is thinning, hands, and feet. You should not think of sunscreen as an alternative to avoiding the sun or covering up. It is used in addition. No sunscreen is 100% effective and it provides less protection than clothes or shade. Ideally:

  • Apply 20-30 minutes before going out into the sun (it takes a short time to become effective). 
  • Re-apply frequently, at least every two hours, and always after swimming or towelling (even those that say they are waterproof). 
  • Reapply to children even more often than this. 
  • Use a 'broad spectrum' sunscreen to protect against UVA and UVB. 

Take special care with children in the sun

All people of all ages should protect their skin, but it it is even more vital to protect children. Although skin cancer is rare in children, the amount of sun exposure during childhood is thought to increase the risk of developing skin cancer in adult life. Therefore, take extra care with children, using a high factor sun screen, hats and long sleeved clothes, and keep babies out of the sun completely.

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