The summer holidays are fast approaching and you’ll be looking forward to some quality rest and relaxation in the sun. To ensure you fully enjoy your break without the worry of what damage the sun is doing to your, and your family’s, skin and eyes, Ashtead Hospital in Surrey has put together some top tips for sun safety.
It’s well known that sun exposure and UV radiation (UVA and UVB) can cause sun burn, skin ageing and skin cancer but did you realise that it can damage your eyes too?
The sun’s rays can seriously damage your eyes and the eyelids that are designed to protect them. Inside your eye, the lens and cornea, both transparent, filter UV rays, but are susceptible to damage from years of UV absorption. Your eyelid’s skin is thin with many fragile tissues vulnerable to UV light. Eye and eyelid cancers, cataracts and macular degeneration are thought to be attributable to UV radiation in many patients.
So let’s take a look at what you can do to protect yourself and your loved ones from the sun.
Five sun safety tips
- Limit your time in the sun
It’s recommended that you seek shade or go indoors during the hottest part of the day when the sun’s rays UV penetration is strongest and most intense. In the UK, this is between 11am and 3pm during the summer months of May to September, and in Europe and the US this is between 10am and 2pm.
- Find shade whenever possible
Shade can provide a good barrier between you and the sun. Trees, umbrellas and canopies can all provide good shade.
It’s recommended that you keep babies and toddlers in the shade as much as possible during the daytime.
- Wear clothing to cover skin exposed to the sun
Clothing, especially if close weave, is an effective barrier between your skin and eyes, and the sun.
It’s best to cover as much of your body as possible, especially your shoulders as they burn easily. For example, long-sleeve shirts, long trousers and broad-brim hats will offer good sun protection.
Sun-protective clothing is an excellent choice. They are given an UPF rating that refers to how much sun burning UV radiation is blocked. UPF 50+ is the highest and blocks more than 97.5% of the sun's burning rays. They are a really good way of helping to protect a child's delicate skin in the sun.
- Regularly apply broad spectrum sunscreens with a SPF of 15 or higher
Broad spectrum sunscreens offer protection against two types of the sun’s ultraviolet radiation, called UVA and UVB rays. It’s advisable to choose a sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 or above and apply it regularly, liberally and as directed to all exposed skin. Choose a water resistant sunscreen especially if you are in and out of the pool or sea.
Apply your sunscreen 20 to 30 minutes before going out into the sun (it takes a short time to soak into the skin and to work). Don’t skimp on the amount of sunscreen you use. You’ll need the equivalent of a golf ball to evenly cover your body. Reapply at least every two hours, and more often when swimming or sweating.
Don’t forget to protect your lips with an SPF 15+ lip balm too.
Check that your sunscreen is in date. If it doesn’t have a date it should be considered as expired after three years.
- Protect your eyes with sunglasses
Sunlight can be damaging to your eyes. It can reflect off sand and water and this further increases your eye exposure to UV radiation and your risk of developing eye problems.
It’s best to choose quality sunglasses that have a UVA/UVB rating of 100%.
It’s worth considering the design of your sunglasses too. Choose sunglasses that are large enough to shield your eyes, eyelids, and surrounding areas. The more skin they cover, the better. Ensure they are close fitting to stop the sun’s rays entering the sides and top. Wraparound styles with a UV-protective side shields are ideal.
Polarised lenses will help prevent glare, especially when driving and on the water where reflection greatly magnifies glare.
Remember that the price of your sunglasses and darkness of the lens bear no reflection on the quality of protection they provide. Many sunglasses with light-coloured tints, such as amber, green and red, offer the same UV protection as very dark lenses.
Make sure you buy children’s sunglasses with a high UV protection level and avoid toy sunglasses that may not protect them from UV rays.
If you use contact lenses you should still wear sunglasses with high UV protection.
Expert advice and treatment for skin and eye conditions caused by sun exposure
At Ashtead Hospital they recommend that you protect yourself from the sun throughout the year. Even when it’s cooler and overcast it’s important to protect yourself from UV radiation.
The best protection is to stay in the shade as much as possible but for practicality and maximum sun protection you should combine shade, clothing, sunscreen, and quality sunglasses.
They hope that you have a thoroughly enjoyable holiday and have fun in the sun whilst keeping safe.
Call Ashtead Hospital on 01372 221400 to make an appointment about your skin or eye concern.
If you are worried about ageing skin, skin or eye cancer, or eye conditions then they have a team of consultant dermatologists and consultant ophthalmologists who offer convenient and local appointments where you can get the advice you need.
They have a mole screening clinic for the early detection of skin cancer and non-surgical skin treatments to rejuvenate ageing skin.