Protect yourself in the sun


Living in Ireland we may feel we do not need to worry about protecting our skin from the sun, but the sun here can burn just as much as when you are overseas, even in April!


We at Burkes Pharmacy believe you should enjoy the Irish sun while it lasts and protect your skin at the same time from its damaging effect (especially children who have more sensitive skin).


Overexposure to the sun is associated with:


  • Accelerated ageing
  • Skin cancer, this is becoming a more serious problem as the years go by.




The Australian saying ‘Slip, Slop, Slap’ – Slip on a Shirt, Slop on a Hat, Slap on some sun cream is easy, excellent advice in the sun. It is designed to reduce exposure to sunlight and minimize the risks involved. Other common advice given is to avoid exposure to the sun when it as its strongest – between 12 noon and 3pm and reapply sun cream after being in water.


What sun cream should I use?


All sunscreens carry a Sun Protection Factor (SPF). This is followed by a number: 15, 25, 50, etc. So, what does this mean? The higher the SPF value, the longer the user will be able to stay in the sun without visibly burning.  As an example, if someone would normally start to burn after 5 minutes in the sun when unprotected, by using an SPF15 sun-cream they should be able to stay out for 75 minutes without visibly burning.  Sun lotions must also offer protection against the more damaging UVA rays equal to at least one third of the claimed protection against UVB rays.


What about children?


Remember children get burnt very easily and they should wear sensible clothing to cover up well while playing in the sand. Newborn babies should not be exposed to sunlight at all until they are at least 6 months old. After that age, and depending on their skin type, short periods of unprotected exposure lasting just a couple of minutes at a time may be introduced. Make sure that babies wear a wide-rimmed sun hat that shades the neck, ears and face – the best ones have ribbons attached so they can be tied under the chin. Alternatively, use a parasol for protection. Use a broad-spectrum sun cream that filters out both UVA and UVB radiation.


As children become older and more active it is important to keep applying sun lotions especially if they are in and out of water. Again, keeping covered with a light T-shirt will help but you will need to apply lotion underneath for better protection.


As your children grow up, try to encourage them to take some of the responsibility for ensuring they are safe in the sun. Give them their own bottle of sun lotion and show them how and when to use it – soon it will become a habit that will protect them for the rest of their lives. They should be supervised applying sun cream to ensure they cover themselves correctly.


What to do if you get burnt?


If you are do get burnt make sure you drink plenty of fluids and use the after sun creams to lessen the effects. If you go to bed, make sure someone is aware you are not feeling well.


If a person is severely dehydrated, especially children, seek medical assistance.


Facts About Sun Exposure


The sun radiates light to the earth, and part of that light consists of invisible ultraviolet (UV) rays. When these rays reach the skin, they cause tanning, burning, and other skin damage.


Sunlight contains three types of UV rays: UVA, UVB, and UVC.


  1. UVA rays cause skin aging and wrinkling and contribute to skin cancer, such as melanoma. Because UVA rays pass effortlessly through the ozone layer (the protective layer of atmosphere, or shield, surrounding the earth) in almost equal intensity all year long, they make up the majority of our sun exposure. To protect against UVA, you need to protect yourself year round regardless of where you live in Ireland and what time of year it is.
  2. UVB rays are also dangerous, causing sunburns, cataracts, and immune system damage. They also contribute to skin cancer. Melanoma, the most dangerous form of skin cancer, is thought to be associated with severe UVB sunburns that occur before the age of 20. Most UVB rays are absorbed by the ozone layer, but enough of these rays pass through to cause serious damage. The intensity of UVB rays can vary throughout the year depending on factors such as season, cloud cover, latitude, etc.
  3. UVC rays are the most dangerous, but fortunately, these rays are blocked by the ozone layer and don’t reach the earth.