Summer is well and truly here. While the warm weather and sunshine can brighten up our days and make us want to spend more time outside, it’s important to stay safe by taking steps to stay healthy when the sun is out.
The hot temperature and sun’s UV rays can put us at risk of short and long-term health problems – in the UK as well as abroad. Overheating, dehydration, heatstroke and sunburn are no joke and could put you out of action for a few days or even send you to hospital.
Protect your skin from sunburn – spend time in the shade, cover up with clothing, and use a high factor sunscreen.
Sunburn isn’t just painful now, it increases your risk of skin cancer in the future. This is especially important if your immune system is suppressed. For example if you have had a liver transplant or take immunosuppressants to manage a condition like autoimmune hepatitis.
Follow our tips to keep your skin safe from sunburn:
- The UK summer sun is strongest between 11am and 3pm. In the middle of summer, it can be strong outside these times too. Look out for the UV level in weather forecasts – there is a risk of sunburn when it’s 3 or more.
- Remember that being in the shade and covering up with clothes are the best ways to protect your skin. Sunscreen is a useful extra line of defence, but it’s not a reason to stay out in strong sun for too long.
- Use high factor sunscreen with at least SPF 30 and good UVA protection. If your immune system is suppressed, use the highest SPF you can find – they go up to SPF50.
- Don’t be fooled by clouds – the sun can still be strong enough to burn.
- Reapply sunscreen often, even if it’s a once-a-day version. Sunscreen can be rubbed, washed and sweated off. And it’s all too easy to miss bits when you’re applying it.
- There’s no safe way to get a suntan – and it’s a myth that a ‘base tan’ protects your skin from the sun.
Don’t get heat exhaustion or heatstroke - keep cool and stay hydrated.
You’re more at risk of heatstroke if you live with a long-term health condition, so look out for yourself or family and friends with a liver condition. Children and older people are at higher risk too.
These simple steps will help you keep your cool:
- Drink plenty of water.
- Take cool baths and showers or try sprinkling your skin and clothes with water.
- Don’t do heavy exercise or other physical activity.
- Spend time inside or in the shade during the hottest part of the day.
Heat exhaustion can lead to heatstroke which is an emergency. If you or someone else may have heat exhaustion, cool them down by getting them to lie down in a cool place and drink plenty of water. If they still feel unwell after 30 minutes or you are worried about any other symptoms like shortness of breath call 999 straight away.
Hot weather, alcohol, and choosing not to drink
Sunny weather can also lead to people drinking more alcohol. Avoiding excess alcohol is another important way to reduce the risk of heat exhaustion, so you might want to let your friends and family know even if you don’t drink yourself.
If you don’t drink alcohol, it can be frustrating when it seems like that’s all everyone else wants to do. Try these strategies to enjoy the summer your way:
- Have some ideas ready to suggest for activities that don’t revolve around alcohol. You could try low-effort park and garden games such as French boules, skittles, or giant Jenga.
- Keep your favourite drinks chilled and ready in the fridge. And look out for cafes and other places that serve drinks you enjoy.
- If not drinking alcohol feels like a struggle, speak to someone who understands. That could be a family member, a friend, or a mental health or alcohol support service.
- Let close friends and family know if you’re feeling left out or side-lined.
- If people you don’t know well offer you an alcoholic drink, remember it’s your choice whether you explain why you’re saying no thanks. There’s no shame in not drinking alcohol, whatever the reason, but it’s okay if you don’t feel like a long conversation about it.
- Plan some time doing your favourite activities, either by yourself or invite friends and family – after all, no alcohol doesn’t mean no fun!