Taking care in the sun

Date published: 22 July 2019

It’s nice to enjoy any sunshine we get, but you should be aware that too much time in the sun is dangerous. It can damage your skin and lead to skin cancer in later life. It's important to take care in the sun and protect yourself.

Protection against the sun

Being active and having fun outside in the sun is good for your health, providing essential vitamin D.  For most people just a few minutes’ exposure to the sun is enough to top up our vitamin D levels.

The unpredictability of our summers can lead to many people thinking they will not get sunburn in such a changeable climate.

Everyone is at risk of sun damage, but certain groups are particularly at risk, including:

  • those with fair hair and skin
  • babies and children
  • outdoor workers
  • people with a family history of skin cancer

Even a small amount of exposure to the sun can do damage.

It's vital that all of us take the necessary steps to protect ourselves in the sun and actively reduce the risks of skin cancer.

UV levels

It's important to:

  • be ultraviolet (UV) radiation aware
  • know what the UV index is going to be throughout the day
  • take appropriate care in the sun according to the UV level

UV levels vary with the seasons and time of day, but when the UV index is three or above you need to protect your skin and eyes. 

We are even exposed to UV rays on overcast days.

Avoiding sunburn

It's important to avoid sunburn, which can be very unpleasant and may cause long-term skin damage.

Just one episode of sunburn, especially in childhood, can double the lifetime risk of malignant melanoma so it's important to take care in the sun.

By following some simple steps, you can help protect against the sun’s harmful UV rays:

  • seek shade when the sun is at its strongest – generally 11.00 am to 3.00 pm
  • cover up in the sun with a long-sleeved t-shirt, sunglasses and hat 
  • wear sunglasses that have one of the following - CE and British Standard Marks, a UV 400 label, 100 per cent UV protection
  • sunglasses should fit your face well and relatively snugly so that light doesn't enter your eye from around the lens
  • use sunscreen and lip balm with a minimum sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 for UVB protection and four stars for UVA protection
  • apply sunscreen and lip balm liberally 30 minutes before going out and don’t forget your head, neck and ears
  • re-apply sunscreen at least every two hours

Examine your skin

It’s important to examine your skin regularly and to watch for any changes.

If you notice a lump, a sore which does not heal, a mole which changes shape, size, colour or bleeds easily, or if you have any concerns, seek advice from your GP.

Hot weather advice

You can find out more about protecting yourself during hot weather on the following pages:

More useful links

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