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Health Topics - SunSmart

Being SunSmart
You can be SunSmart and still enjoy the great outdoors. Being SunSmart is about protecting yourself and your family from too much ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun. All you need to do is Slip, Slop, Slap and Wrap.


Slip, Slop, Slap and Wrap - Four Ways to be Safe in the Sun

Slip

  • Slip into a shirt and clothing that offers good protection from the sun eg, long-sleeve shirt with a collar, and lightweight trousers or long shorts.
  • Also, slip into some shade, especially between 10.00am and 4.00pm when the UV levels are highest
Slop
  • Slop on plenty of broad-spectrum SPF 30+ sunscreen before going outdoors. Apply a thick layer over your skin at least 15 minutes before going outdoors.
  • Reapply sunscreen every two hours and after physical activity, swimming or towel drying.
  • Sunscreen should not be used as a way to stay out in the sun longer. Instead, use it as a way to reduce the risk of damage to the skin when exposure to the summer sun is unavoidable.
  • Keep an eye on the expiry date of your sunscreen – throw it away if it’s past the expiry date.
  • Keep sunscreen in handy places where people are most likely to be reminded or need to use sunscreen eg, by the door at home or work, or in your swim bag, sports bag or handbag.

Slap

  • Slap on a hat with a wide brim or a cap with flaps. More people get sunburnt on the face and neck than any other part of the body, so a good hat is important.

Wrap

  • Wrap on a pair of sunglasses. Choose close fitting, wrap-around glasses that cover your eye area and protect the sensitive skin around them.

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Vitamin D
There are both benefits and risks to sun exposure. A balance is needed between adequate vitamin D levels and increased risk of skin cancer. Sensible sun protection is unlikely to put people at risk of vitamin D deficiency.
At the 1st International Conference on UV and Skin Cancer Prevention, one of the key outcomes was around the vitamin D issue. The key message from the conference was as follows:
Vitamin D and sun protection can be combined.  Scientific studies have shown that vitamin D is created within minutes when the skin is exposed to UV rays. Even in the shade with sunscreen on, the skin produces vitamin D. The conclusion was that sun protection and vitamin D are not mutually exclusive and protecting against the sun does not lead to vitamin D deficiency. People should not overexpose themselves to the sun or use sun beds in order to increase vitamin D levels.

Sun protection advice

Between September and April

  • Use sun protection (Slip, Slop, Slap and Wrap) especially between 10.00am – 4.00pm.
  • A 30 minute daily walk or some other form of outdoor physical activity in the early morning (before 10.00am) or late afternoon (after 4.00pm) without sun protection is also recommended.

Between May and August

  • Some sun exposure is important.
  • A 30 minute daily walk or some other form of outdoor physical activity in the hours around noon is recommended with face, arms and hands exposed.

People who should use sun protection all year round

  • People with a history of skin cancer, sun damage, or who are taking medicines that affect photosensitivity should use sun protection (Slip, Slop, Slap and Wrap) all year round. Talk to you doctor about your vitamin D requirements.
  • Sun protection should be used throughout the year when at high altitudes or near highly reflective surfaces, such as snow or water.

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