Getting outside is good for our physical and mental health.
Sunshine is the main source of vitamin D which is important for our muscles and bones, and feeling the sun on our skin can make us feel much happier.
However, you can burn in the UK even when it is cloudy and sunburn can be uncomfortable as well as lead to a higher risk of skin cancer. Your pharmacist and pharmacy team can help advise you about protecting yourself from the sun and if you do overdo it, can help you manage the symptoms of sore inflamed skin.
To minimise the risk of getting sunburn, avoid direct sunlight between 11am and 3pm in the Spring and Summer, and wear a sunscreen with a factor of at least 30. Take extra care with children and be aware that sunscreen alone may not protect you, so you may need to cover up with clothes and sunglasses when the sun is at its hottest. Choose a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30 against UVB, and 4 or 5 star UVA protection. Check your sunscreen has not expired as it loses effectiveness after 2-3 years and ensure you apply plenty. As a guide, adults should use 2 teaspoons of sunscreen if covering your head, arms and neck and 2 tablespoons if covering your entire body. Remember to apply sunscreen to all exposed skin, even if popping out for a walk, especially on your face, neck and ears. If you have less hair on your head, then ensure you apply to your scalp and wear a hat. The top of the head and ears is a common place for skin cancer in men.
It’s also important to ensure you are getting enough vitamin D from sunlight for good health. It’s not easy to get the balance right between protecting your skin from sunlight and allowing enough exposure to make enough vitamin D.
All adults and children over one should take a vitamin D supplement of 10 micrograms a day particularly in the Autumn and Winter, and you may need more. People with dark skin from an African, African-Caribbean or South Asian background or those who cover up or cannot get outside, may need to take a higher dose or a supplement all year round. Children’s skin is especially vulnerable to sun and so extra care must be taken to ensure they are protected from the sun. However, this means they may not make enough vitamin D and so all children under 5 are advised to take a vitamin D supplement. Your pharmacist can help you make the right choice.
If you’ve overdone it then burnt skin can be soothed with cool water, after-sun cream or spray containing aloe vera. Painkillers such as paracetamol or ibuprofen will ease the pain and help reduce inflammation. If your skin swells badly or blisters or you feel unwell, then you may need extra medical help. Your pharmacy team can help advise you of your options and recommend what you should do.
Finally, if you have any concerns about a mole or skin lesion that has changed shape, size or colour, then your pharmacist will take a look and tell you what to do next.
Pharmacy cares and protects you.