Travelling and sun safety

By Roberta Geraci

Photo by Crispin who volunteered in Ghana

Photo by Crispin who volunteered in Ghana

While the famous April showers are in full flow here in the UK, summer is not far away. While we all like to enjoy spending some time outdoors in the sun and it is important to gain vitamin D, too much exposure to the Sun and extreme heat can have very serious health consequences. Whether you are planning a trip abroad to some of the hottest spots on earth, travelling on a gap year or volunteering abroad, it is essential you protect yourself from too much sun exposure and remain hydrated in the heat.

Worryingly in the UK, more than 76,500 cases of non-melanoma skin cancer and more than 9,500 cases of melanoma skin cancer are diagnosed each year. Melanoma skin cancer is a more dangerous and difficult to treat form of skin cancer and is one of the fastest rising forms of Cancer in the UK during the last 25 years.

According to the BBC Health guide ”the main cause of skin cancer is over-exposure to the sun’s harmful UV rays. A suntan isn’t healthy – it’s a sign of skin damage. It’s thought the UV radiation in sunlight causes subtle cell damage which can lead to cancerous changes.”

To avoid over exposure to the sun the NHS Sun Safety website advises the following:

  1. Use a Sunscreen with a high SPF factor and apply it generously and often. The higher the SPF the better protection against UVA rays. Likewise Sun screen with a high star rating will provide a greater level of UVB protection. Also make sure the sunscreen is still in date before applying it.
  2. Do not spend too long in the Sun. “Sunscreen should not be used as an excuse to stay out in the sun. Instead, it offers protection when exposure is unavoidable.” Avoid the long exposure to the Sun between 11 am and 3 pm when the Sun’s rays are their most damaging.
  3. Wear Sunglasses with UV filters to protect your eyes and wear a hat to cover your head.
  4. Try to keep cool in the shade to avoid sunburn and heat exhaustion. Look out for signs of heat exhaustion including “faintness, dizziness, palpitations, nausea, headaches, low blood pressure, tiredness, confusion, loss of appetite and hallucinations.”
  5. Heat exhaustion can lead to heat stroke or sun stroke which is more dangerous. If you or someone you are with is displaying the above symptoms “Rest in a cool place, ideally a room with air conditioning. Give them plenty of water… and use a shower or cold bath to cool them down or, if this is not possible, wet flannels and face cloths in water and apply to their skin. Loosen any unnecessary clothing and make sure that the person gets plenty of ventilation. Monitor their condition closely.”
  6. Avoid alcohol and caffeine as these can increase dehydration and drink plenty of water.

With sensible precautions you can reduce the risk of suffering from the above conditions and focus on enjoying your travels.

Please remember that all content provided is for general information only, and should not be treated as a substitute for the medical advice of your own doctor or any other health care professional. If you have any concerns about your health always seek professional advice and consult your own GP.

Tags: sun safety

  • Lee

    I’m always very cautious of the sun and UV rays, but I also don’t want people to be outright afraid of it either. The sun has some great health benefits, it’s just a matter of taking the right precautions.