Most of us look forward to the warmer weather and getting out in the sun. But it’s important to be prepared for the hot weather as high temperatures can be dangerous to your health.
How can I protect my skin from sun damage?
Although it’s important to protect your skin, some direct exposure to the sun is essential for the production of vitamin D.
Getting the balance right for enough sun exposure to trigger vitamin D production without causing skin damage and increasing your risk of skin cancer is important. Don’t let your skin burn, but try to go outside once or twice every day without sunscreen for short periods from March to October.
If you are going outside for some time, use sun cream of at least sun protection factor (SPF) 15 with four or five stars. Apply it generously and top up at least every two hours or straight after you’ve been in water.
Sun cream has a shelf life of 2-3 years unopened. It may be labelled with a use-by date that applies once opened. The use-by symbol is an opened lid with the letter M and a number. This represents the number of months its protective formula remains active once opened.
Your eyes also need to be protected from the sun. Wear sunglasses that have a CE mark, UV400 label or a statement that they offer 100% UV (ultraviolet) protection.
If you have moles or brown patches on your skin, they usually remain harmless. But if they bleed or change size, shape or colour, show them to your GP without delay.
What are some health problems caused by hot weather?
Be aware of the symptoms of common health problems experienced in summer so you can get medical help if you feel unwell.
Dehydration and overheating
Extreme heat and dry conditions can cause you to dehydrate and your body to overheat.
It’s important to eat a balanced diet to help your body replace any salt you lose by sweating. Aim to drink 6 – 8 glasses of liquid a day, and more if it’s hot. Limit drinks with caffeine and avoid alcohol as it can make dehydration worse.
You may also need to be careful if you’re taking some types of medication that affect water retention. Speak to your GP if you’re concerned.
Watch out for certain signs – particularly for muscle cramps in your arms, legs or stomach, mild confusion, weakness or sleep problems. If you have any of these, rest in a cool place and drink plenty of fluids.
If your symptoms persist or worsen, call your GP or NHS 111 for advice
Sunburn is caused by UV (ultraviolet) from the sun. The skin can become red, sore, tender or flaky. Too much UV can damage your skin cells and over time this can lead to skin cancer.
The symptoms of heat exhaustion include headaches, dizziness, nausea or vomiting, intense thirst, heavy sweating and a fast pulse.
If you have any of these symptoms you must, if at all possible:
- find a cool place and loosen tight clothes
- drink plenty of water or fruit juice
- sponge yourself with cool (not cold) water.
Your symptoms should improve within 30 minutes. If you're feeling better but still have any concerns, call your GP or NHS 111 for advice.
Heatstroke can develop if heat exhaustion is left untreated – it can also develop suddenly and without warning.
The symptoms of heatstroke include confusion, disorientation, seizures and loss of consciousness.
Heatstroke is a life-threatening condition. If you or someone else shows symptoms:
- call 999 immediately, or 112 if you are in the European Union (you can call 112 from a mobile for free)
- if you have a personal alarm, press the button on your pendant to call for help
- while waiting for the ambulance, follow the advice given for heat exhaustion but do not try to give fluids to anyone who is unconscious.
If you have a long-term condition such as diabetes, a heart or breathing problem, then the heat can cause stress on your body and worsen your condition. Talk to your doctor about how best to manage your long-term condition in hot weather.