seems to like sunny weather. Sunlight is a source of natural
light and energy. It is good for our general health, has healing
properties and produces a feel good factor.
Many people travel abroad from the
UK specifically in search of a sunnier climate. This is hardly
surprising when you consider the sort of weather we often
experience in a typical British summer.
Although sunbathing may be enjoyable
it must always be remembered that excessive exposure to the
sun's rays is a health hazard due to the harmful effects of
ultraviolet radiation on the skin.
The sun emits two kinds of ultraviolet
- UVA - which penetrate
deeply into the skin and can trigger allergies and cause
premature ageing and wrinkling.
- UVB - these affect the
upper layers of the skin and trigger the production of melanin
which causes tanning. Too much causes burning, freckling
and thickening of the skin. They can also cause skin cancers.
are both present when the sun shines and can both penetrate
through cloud. Sun damage can also occur when sunlight is
'reflected' from water, sand or snow.
Sunburn often affects skiers, climbers
and trekkers at high altitude where the intensity of the light
increases by stealth. The higher the altitude,the more concentrated
the sun's UV rays. Each 300 metre gain in altitude adds 4%
to the sun's intensity.
The sun's rays can also penetrate
through water and are effectively magnified. In shallow water
the rays can reflect off a sandy bottom. Being underwater
can therefore be deceptive due to the cooling effect of the
Snorkelers should always wear a
tee shirt or similar to prevent the sun burning their backs.
Scuba divers are not normally at risk due to their protective
clothing and they are often too deep for harmful UV penetration.
Sunburn when it occurs is a major
cause of distress to travellers and can have long-term effects
including skin cancer and premature skin ageing. Over exposure
to the sun can also dehydrate the skin.
Sunburn is always preventable.
- Fair skinned people who very
often have red or white hair and blue eyes.
- Those persons with certain medical
conditions such as albinism, lots of moles or a previous
- Those on certain medications
such as tetracyclines or diuretics.
- People with certain skin conditions
such as psoriasis, eczema and vitiligo need to take special
care when they are in the sun.
- The elderly, babies and young
children are particularly sensitive.
Everyone should avoid the
midday sun, usually from noon until 2pm
(3pm in the tropics).
Adults should wear a broad
brimmed hat, long sleeved shirts and sunglasses. Children
should wear long sleeved shirts, hats and high-factor waterproof
sunscreen. Babies under 9 months should be kept out of direct
lie in the sun to dry off after swimming, the skin will
burn in a matter of minutes.
High altitude climbers etc.
should wear a hat with a neck cover and sunglasses with nose
shields and blinker side pieces.
Wear cotton fabrics next
to the skin, they are cooler. Avoid loose weave fabrics that
allow penetration of the sun's rays.
Sun factor preparations work by reducing
or blocking the effects of sunlight allowing a person to stay
in the sun longer. Everyone who intends exposing themselves
to direct sunlight should consider using a preparation with
an appropriate Sun Protection Factor.
These absorb ultraviolet B (UVB)
and to a lesser extent ultraviolet A (UVA).
The Sun Protection Factor (SPF)
refers to the protection against UVB and will be marked on
the outside of the container. Factors range from 2 to as high
no protection, most people's skin will start to burn after
10 minutes exposure to the sun. The sun protection factor
allows you sunbathe longer in safety without burning e.g.
An SPF 8 allows approximately 8 times longer sun exposure,
an SPF 15 allows 15 times longer etc.
There is now a star system denoting
UVA protection where more stars indicates greater protection.(1
star lowest, 4 stars highest).
Always re-apply preparations after
swimming, even if they are waterproof. The effectiveness of
the protection will always decrease after immersion in water.
N.B. The re-application of
a given factor does NOT mean that the protection time is doubled.
Sun Block Preparations
find out which
Sun Protection Factor you need:-
These preparations are based on
zinc oxide or titanium dioxide and are applied thickly to
particularly sensitive areas like the lips and nose. They
block out the sun's harmful rays by forming a reflective barrier.
They are particularly useful for
persons going to high altitude where the rays are more intense,
and are also popular with certain sports people such as cricketers
who spend long periods in the sun.
- Get the person out of the sun.
- Cool the skin where possible
with cold running water, a cold shower or immersion in a
cool to luke warm bath.
- Avoid direct pressure to the
- Give pain killers.
- Apply calamine lotion, witch
hazel or a proprietary after sun lotion. After sun is very
effective at cooling, calming and moisturising the skin,
it will also help to prevent peeling.
This condition occurs when the body
is unable to cool its core temperature sufficiently and overheats.
It is manifest in two distinct ways:-
These are both the result of hot weather or working in hot
conditions. Heat stroke can be fatal and is often the result
of heat exhaustion.
Heat exhaustion is characterised
- Headache dizziness and nausea
- Cramps in the limbs and/or abdomen
- Profuse sweating with pale, clammy
- Rapid, weak breathing and pulse
someone is suffering from heat exhaustion, try to cool them
down by removing them from direct sunlight into the shade.
Lie them down and apply lukewarm (not cold) water with a sponge
or similar. They should be encouraged to drink as much rehydration
solution as they can take. Allow them to rest until they fully
recover, monitoring closely for any signs of deterioration.
Heat stroke is a serious
condition caused by failure of the body's natural thermostat
resulting in an inability to cool itself down by normal means.
It usually occurs as a result of exposure to very hot surroundings.
The onset can be sudden, resulting in unconsciousness in a
matter of minutes. Medical assistance should be sought as
soon as possible.
main signs of heat stroke are:
- Headache, dizziness, confusion
- Hot, flushed, dry skin due to
failure of sweating mechanism
- Full, bounding pulse
- Body temperature above 40C
- Rapid deterioration in the level
When heat stroke occurs the main
priority is to cool the patient down as quickly as possible
but never use ice or very cold water to avoid thermal shock
which could kill them.
Remove the patient from any heat
source and wrap them in a cool, wet sheet and keep them well
ventilated. Make sure the sheet remains wet. Monitor closely
for signs of cardio-respiratory failure and be prepared to
resuscitate if necessary. When the temperature drops below
38C the wet sheet can be removed but if their temperature
begins to rise again, replace it and continue as before.