Summertime brings the hope of sunshine, even if sporadic in nature. Whether you plan to holiday abroad or stay at home, it is important that you take measures to protect yourself and your family from the damage that sun can cause.
The sun’s rays are made up of UVA (Ultraviolet A) and UVB (Ultraviolet B) waves. UVA waves are constantly present no matter the season or weather, whereas UVB waves are more prevalent in the summer months. UVA waves penetrate the skin deeply and are responsible for photo-ageing. UVA exposure leads to wrinkles, sunspots and in severe cases, skin cancer. UVB waves damage thesuperficial layers of the skin, leading to sunburn (i.e.reddening or burning of the skin). Excessive sun exposure should be avoided, especially in children and adolescents as their skin is more sensitive than that of adults.
There are a wide range of sunscreens available forboth adults and children. Sunscreens act by reflectingUV rays away from the skin as well as absorbing UV rays before they penetrate the skin. SPF (SunProtection Factor) is a measure of sunscreen efficacy.It provides an indication of how long it will take UVB rays to burn or redden the skin with the presence of sunscreen compared to how long it would take the skin to burn in the absence of sunscreen. It is recommended that adults apply a sunscreen SPF 15 or above. As children’s skin is particularly sensitiveto the damaging effects of the sun use a higher SPF(30 or 50) and be aware of how long they have been out in the sun.
The star rating measures the amount of ultraviolet A radiation (UVA) protection. You should see a starrating of up to five stars on UK sunscreens – thehigher the star rating, the better. The letters “UVA” inside a circle is a European marking and means the sunscreen meets EU recommendations.
Sunscreen needs to be applied liberally at least 30 minutes before sun exposure and should be re- applied every two hours. Remember that waterand perspiration wash off sunscreen and althoughwater resistant products are available, they don’t lastindefinitely so play safe and reapply. On applicationpay attention to the more sensitive areas such as nose, ears, scalp and lips.
Other sun protection measures include staying in theshade between the hours of 11am and 3pm, wearing a broad brimmed hat, wearing approved sunglassesto protect your eyes and drinking plenty of fluidsto stay hydrated. Babies under six months should be kept out of direct sunlight. Car window shades are available to protect babies and children whilst travelling and swimwear with a UV protection rating (UPF) can be widely purchased.
Richard Dunn is a community pharmacist with Gordons Chemists.