When we’re on holiday, most of us slap on the sun cream to stop ourselves from burning.
But when it comes to sitting out in the garden or park here in the UK that necessity seems to escape some of us.
We’re currently experiencing a heatwave (as you can probably tell), with some parts of the UK experiencing highs of over 33C.
It’s not just finding a way to stay cool in the heat that’s the issue, though.
As well as the warm climes, the UV index forecast shows unusually high levels, which can cause burning and eye issues (as well as skin cancer in some after prolonged exposure).
The UV level we typically see here in Britain is relatively low – between 1 and 5 on the Met Office index.
This week, however, levels of 8 or 9 have been recorded in some parts, making it extra important to protect yourself from the sun.
What is UV?
The UV index measures ultraviolet radiation from the sun. This energy comes from the sun, but unlike heat or light cannot be detected by our senses.
UV is the main cause of skin cancer in humans, and what causes sunburn, premature aging, and eye damage after we’ve been in the sun.
The Met Office UV index goes from 1 to 11, with 1 being the lowest score and 11 being extreme.
According to the Met Office website: ‘The UV index does not exceed 8 in the UK (8 is rare; 7 may occur on exceptional days, mostly in the two weeks towards the end of June). Indices of 9 and 10 are common in the Mediterranean area.’
So, since we’re now seeing 9 being recorded in Southern parts of England around midday, it’s safe to say things are not quite normal right now and we need to take precautions.
How quickly will I burn in the sun?
The quickness with which you burn in the sun is dependent on the UV index and the fairness of your skin.
For illustrative purposes, we’ll look at type 2 skin – which is fair burns easily, and tans minimally.
This skin type can burn in 20 minutes in UV levels of 6 to 7.
If they’re in UV of 8 to 10 (as we are in many places right now), fair skinned people can burn in as little as 10 minutes.
But, regardless of your skin type, it’s important to protect yourself regardless, as it’s not just sunburn that you need to be careful with when it comes to UV.
How to protect against UV rays
The best way to protect against UV rays is to not go outside, but that’s not practical. Plus, we actually need some exposure to UV so that we absorb vitamin D (just not too much).
Realistically you are going to go out, but you might want to avoid doing so between 10am and 4pm when rays are at their strongest.
Regardless of the time, make sure to wear a high factor sun protection and reapply every hour or two or whenever you get wet.
Don’t forget sensitive areas like the nose, lips, and toes and, if you’re extra fair, opt for long sleeves or floaty trousers to stay cool yet not risk burning.
To protect your eyes, wear a wide-brimmed hat and/or sunglasses. When you buy a pair of sunnies you can usually see whether or not they offer UV protection, so look for the little sticker when you’re shopping for a new pair.
Surfaces like water, glass, sand, and even roads can reflect UV light. So don’t assume that in shady areas you don’t need to take precautions anyway.
As mentioned above, some people can burn in as little as 10 minutes outdoors, so try to wear sunscreen even if you’re just popping to the shops or out for a short time.
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