Bring me sunshine!

We have been made to think that the sun is our enemy, sit in it and we’ll burn to a cinder and get skin cancer but, I want to tell you to relax, if you are sensible a little bit of sun is good for us.

Firstly, let me explain about sunscreen. I know it can get confusing, UVA, UVB, UB40, what does it all mean??

Ultraviolet A or, UVA.

Think of the sun’s rays like a radio wave, this is the longest of the suns waves and penetrates the skins deepest layer. This damages the skin and causes ageing. In the UK UVA is measured with a star rating on sunscreens 0 – 5, the higher the stars the greater the protection.

Ultraviolet B or UVB has shorter waves and penetrates the upper layer; this is responsible for the Lobster Look and for allergic reactions.

SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor; this indicates the length of time that you can stay in the sun without normally burning. For example,(here comes the maths bit) if your skin turns a vivid shade of red after 10 minutes, a sunscreen with a SPF of 15 will allow you to spend 150 minutes in the sun. This is just a guide and has to be used sensibly with other precautions in place like not putting yourself on a spit and turning slowly to get an all over tan!
Don’t be stingy with the amount of sunscreen you use, cover all parts of the body, the bits you can’t reach ask a friend! (It’s a good way to make one if you’re on your own!!) A relative of mine sloshed cream all over his body but forgot his feet, they burnt and swelled up to comical size but for some reason, he didn’t see the funny side of it, some people just don’t have a sense of humour. The moral of that story, make sure you cover the whole of your body otherwise you will be in pain and look very silly.

Reapply regularly; even water proof sunscreen needs to be applied after swimming. Use specific sunscreen for babies and children as their skin is more sensitive.

The guidelines are to keep out of the midday sun when it is at its hottest. This is unavoidable if you have to work outside. Make sure that you use sunscreen, hats and clothing to cover up. Drink plenty of fluids and whenever possible keep in the shade.

What can you do if you get sunburned?

Take a painkiller, stay out of the sun, sponge sore skin gently with cold water, apply after-sun or calamine lotion and make sure you drink plenty of fluids (not alcohol!) Avoid wearing clothes that highlight your white/ red swim wear marks and people who think it’s really funny to slap you on your red bits! (They’re just evil)

If you feel unwell, your skin swells or blisters seek medical advice.

As well as sunburn heat exhaustion can be a serious health risk. This is when the body cannot cool down fast enough and can be very dangerous. Symptoms will include fainting, dizziness, palpitations, feeling sick, headaches, low blood pressure, feeling very tired and confused and even hallucinations.

If you suspect heat stroke, rest in a cool place, drink plenty of water, cool the skin with cold water or have a cool bath or shower, loosen clothing and monitor the condition. If there is no improvement or it gets worse seek medical advice.

Prickly heat

If you have ever experienced this you will know the horrible feeling of horrendously itchy skin which you would happily rip off if you possibly could. This is caused by excessive perspiration which makes it easy for skin cells and bacteria on skin to block sweat glands and form a barrier which traps sweat beneath the skin where is built up into bumps. The prickly stinging is when the bumps burst and sweat is released. Lovely….

This usually settles down on its own within a few days but in serious cases it can lead to heat stroke.

If you do have prickly heat try and keep your skin cool and dry, stay out of the sun. Use a fan if possible. Cool showers or baths will help and allow your skin to air-dry. Don’t use oil –based products as they will block the glands, use calamine lotion or hydrocortisone cream instead. If it is within the law, stay naked, if you will upset the neighbours wear cotton material. If it doesn’t clear or gets worse in a couple of days seek medical advice.

Be aware of your moles No, not those…

If you have lots of freckles and moles you may be at an increased risk of skin cancer. To minimise the risk always use sunscreen at least SPF 15 and keep an eye on any changes in shape, size, bleeding or itchy moles or freckles. If you are concerned have a chat with your GP.

The good news….the sun is good for us!!! Woo hoo!!

Vitamin D – Vitamin is made through the sun’s UVB rays on our skin, 90 – 95% of vitamin D is through this process. This vitamin helps us to absorb calcium for healthy bones and if we are active outdoors children it will help prevent us developing Osteoporosis which is a condition where the bones become less dense and susceptible to fractures in later life.

It keeps our heart healthy

More people die of heart disease in the winter than in summer, this is possibly due to low levels of Vitamin D.  The seaside resort Blackpool has 27% more hours of sunshine than Burnley and 9% fewer deaths from coronary heart disease.

It takes about 10-15 minutes for white skin to produce vitamin D; it takes black and Asian skin six times longer. Dark skin is still vulnerable; you will still need to take care in the sun

It relieves ached and pains -The sun warms our soft tissues which helps reduce pain from osteo and rheumatoid arthritis. Lots of people retire abroad and find that their condition improves considerably.

It gives you more energy! – Melatonin regulates sleep so having lower levels of the hormone gives you more energy. You need less sleep in the summer but still feel more energetic. You may even find that you wake up before your alarm goes off; unlike in the winter when a bomb could drop next to you and you’d still not stir.

Sun helps with skin conditions- If you have mild psoriasis, acne, eczema or just plain ol’ spots the sun can help by exposing affected areas for 20 minutes before applying sunscreen but make sure you don’t burn.

Sun boosts your immune system – Sunlight stimulates the production of white blood cells which help to fight infection, we have less colds and flu in the summer.

It helps you to lose weight. – Higher levels of serotonin make us feel happy which helps to reduce depression which helps stop us overeating. You are also more likely to make healthier food choices; we don’t need to tuck into warming stodgy foods.

The Bottom line are your genes (not jeans, it’s too hot for them!) If your ancestors look like this  then sorry, just face it you will burn! Myself and my middle sister take after the Spanish/ Italian blood line from our Dad and tan easily but by older sister takes after our English Rose Mum and goes red and back to white again in a matter of minutes, no amount of sunshine will change her peachy freckly complexion.

You are what you are people, be sensible, enjoy the sunshine but don’t die for a tan!

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