Stay Safe in the Sun: The Risks of Exposure to the Sun No ratings yet.

When the sun comes out it’s time to hit the trails and paths for a welcome return trip into the great outdoors. But when you’re living in a country where it feels like there are more rainy days then sunny days per year, it can be easy to underestimate the power of the sun and its rays. Even in the UK where we’re far away from the equator the sun can still play havoc with your skin and body.

While most of us will be familiar of the stereotypical image of lobster-red Brits abroad who’ve been caught out by the foreign sun, the same plight can befall those of us who’ve stayed at home as I can personally attest to myself on a number of occasions.

Dehydration is one major problem that can affect us during the warmer weather making it very important to keep hydrated when exercising. However, that is just the tip of the iceberg and the risks surrounding exposure to the sun should be given an equal amount of respect.

Here are some of the problems that can arise, as well as some tips on preventing them happening to you:

Heat & Sun Stroke

Heatstroke is achieved when the body’s temperature reaches 40.6 °C (105.1 °F) and above due to heat exposure. The symptoms that accompany this condition include dry skin and a rapid and strong pulse as well as dizziness.

Before heat stroke kicks in, heat exhaustion usually occurs in the build-up. Signs of this condition include heavy sweating, rapid breathing and a fast, weak pulse.

If you notice any of these symptoms starting to develop the best course of action of to try and attempt some rapid cooling activities such as getting into a cooler environment, getting out of the direct sunlight or the heat in general and drinking water that is as cold as possible. Removing clothes is a good idea too as this can promote passive cooling by allowing the heat to dissipate. Bathing in cool water works well but avoid wrapping the body in cold, wet towels as they can act as insulation, preventing the body from cooling down.

When it comes to seeing off heat related illnesses wearing loose fitting and light clothing is a great start. Wide brim hats that can shade the face and neck areas are also a good idea. Avoiding alcohol, caffeine and heavy meals can also help prevent dehydration which can cause heat illness.

Skin Cancer

While there are many causes of skin cancer, sun exposure is one of the most common ways to get this condition. Therefore it is vital to wear sunscreen when out and about, even during periods of mild sunshine. Avoiding getting sunburnt and wearing protective clothing including sunglasses is highly recommended to keep skin cancer at bay.

As sunburn can be a cause of skin cancer, avoiding getting too much sun and getting burnt should be a prime objective when out in warm weather. It’s not just an annoying side effect of too much sun, but a potential cause of a life threatening condition. So when someone offers you some sunscreen, don’t think to yourself “it’s only a bit of sunburn, what’s the worst that can happen?” and turn them down, you could be doing more than increasing your chances of a lobster tan and a few nights of uncomfortable sleep!

While everyone loves the sunshine, it can cause a lot of problems from short term issues like dehydration and heat exhaustion, to longer term and life threatening conditions such as skin cancer. With the sun, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Image: flickr

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Joe Fylan

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