With record heat temperatures breaking across the world and summer fast approaching, many of us are increasingly concerned on how to best protect ourselves and loved ones this season. Summer in Australia is often associated with the beach, holidays, celebrations and fun. However, we too often forget the dangers that come with such long and intense summers, in particular UV radiation exposure.
Australia has the highest rate of skin cancer in the world; with two thirds of Australians being diagnosed with a skin cancer over their lifetime. For this reason, it is extremely important of us to take care of our skin during summer.
General precautions include:
– wearing SPF30 or higher sunscreen (water resistant is best, especially at the beach or pool), ensuring to apply 20 minutes prior to going outside and reapplying every 2 hours
– wearing a broad brim hat and breathable clothing that protects your skin as much as your skin as possible
– sunglasses that meet Australian Standards for UV protection
– stay in shade/under umbrella as much as possible when outdoors
– avoid sun exposure in the middle of the day as this is generally when UV levels are most dangerous
As particular note, babies under 12 months should not be exposed to direct sun when UV levels reach 3 or higher (and use of sunscreen on babies under six months old should be avoided).
Monitoring UV levels is particularly useful to assess your daily risk. A good resource can be found on: cancer.org.au/SunSmartApp.
Children are particularly vulnerable to sunburn (as little as 10 minutes of sun exposure) and heatstroke, and so extra precautions should be taken.
If your child does get sunburnt, ensure they are adequately hydrated by encouraging them to drink water. You can also use cool compresses on the skin and simple pain relief such as paracetamol can assist. Any signs of severe sunburn such as blisters, swollen skin or severe pain should be reviewed by a GP as soon as possible.
Extended duration in the sun can also cause heatstroke in child or vulnerable people in the community. Signs and symptoms include fever, headaches or nausea and vomiting. If any of these symptoms occur after time in the sun, present to your GP immediately (or your local emergency department if outside practice hours).
Having regular skin checks is also an extremely important screening tool to help detect and treat any irregular skin lesions early that may be cancerous. Talk to your local GP for more information to assess your individual risk of skin cancer and form a personalised plan to protect yourself and your family this summer.