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How to look after yourself in the sun

As temperatures heat up this summer, it’s important to keep an eye on your health and make sure that you’re able to enjoy summer. Here are some top tips to look after you and your family during warm weather:

  1. Know your timings: In the UK people should take precautions in the midday sun, especially from March to October. The sun is at its strongest between 11am and 3pm. During this time you should avoid spending time in the direct sunlight but instead head for the shade.
  2. Keep hydrated: Make sure you’re constantly hydrating yourself. Ideally drink water, but if you don’t like the taste you could add fresh fruit, sugar free squash or diluted fruit juice. If you’re travelling this summer, pop some cold water bottles in a cool bag for when you’re feeling the effects of the hot weather. Try to avoid drinks with alcohol or caffeine as these can dehydrate you. Be aware of high sugar drinks as well, it’s very easy to drink more sugar in liquid form.
  3. Shield your body: Keep an eye out when you buy your sun cream to ensure that the label states its sun protection factor (SPF) is of at least 15 and that it has at least a four-star UVA protection. If you have any bottle hidden away in the house, be careful that you’re not using them past their expiry date, sun cream has a shelf life of two to three years. It’s important to cover your body in the right amount of sun cream as most people don’t apply enough, follow the instructions on the bottle. If sun cream is applied in a thin manner, the amount of protection will be limited. Even if your sun cream says “water resistant”, apply once more if you’ve been swimming as towelling and sweating can result in your sun cream being rubbed off.
  4. Cover yourself: Ditch the shorts and instead opt for trousers or long skirts in close-weave fabrics that don’t allow sunlight through, alongside a loose, long-sleeved cotton top as these clothing options will provide sun protection. Don’t forget your wide-brimmed hat to ensure that your face, neck and ears are protected. Choose to wear UV sunglasses to reduce UV exposure which can cause temporary but painful burns to the surface of the eye. Check that your glasses carry the CE mark.
  5. Prevent heat exhaustion: Ways of preventing heat exhaustion include keeping hydrated by drinking cold drinks, having a cool bath or shower, wearing loose clothing, and avoiding extreme exercise and alcohol. Take extra care if you’re looking after infants, older people or people with long term health conditions as they are more vulnerable to becoming unwell in hot weather. Some signs to look out for are having a headache, dizziness and confusion, a loss of appetite and feeling nauseous, excessive sweating, pale and clammy skin, cramps in the arms, legs and stomach, a fast pulse or fast breathing, a temperature of 38C or above, and intense thirst. Children may become sleepy and floppy. If you believe someone is showing signs of heat exhaustion, follow the four steps listed on the NHS website.
  6. Dealing with sunburn: If you do catch the sun, most sunburn heals within seven days and can be treated at home. Sponge the skin with cool water and apply after sun, calamine lotion or aloe vera. Make sure you keep drinking water to avoid dehydration. You can take medicine to ease the pain such as paracetamol and ibuprofen. Always follow the instructions on the packaging. If you want more advice on treating sunburn, visit your local pharmacist for advice.

If you do have health concerns during the summer you can access a range of NHS services depending on your health need:

  • Visit your pharmacist for advice on minor ailments and over the counter treatments
  • Visit your GP surgery for non-life threatening illnesses, conditions and injuries
  • Visit the Urgent Care Centre for urgent but non-life threatening health issues
  • Call 111 for health advice and access to healthcare professionals and our of hours services
  • Call 999 or visit A&E for life threatening conditions