Perils of Sunburn 

As we head in to the prime time for outdoor activities and searingly sunny days, we discuss the perils of an all-too-familiar summer snafu – sunburn with Bupa's National Medical Director Tim Ross.

1. Do you still see serious sunburns in your practice?

Very rarely. The slip slop slap message has really worked. Unless it is a naive tourist or someone who fell asleep in the sun on the grog, most people tend to wear appropriate cover and apply sunscreen.

2. What’s the fuss about sunburn and tanning?

Sunburn is actually a burn, which can be third degree and serious. 

Repeated damage to your skin can lead to premature aging and is a risk factor for skin cancer. 

Tanning is your skin trying to protect itself from harmful UV radiation. It’s bad news too because it also means you’ve sustained skin cell damage.


3. What are your top tips to prevent sunburn and related conditions?

  • Avoid the sun when it is at its most damaging during peak UV times – 10 am to 3 pm or when the UV index is 3 or above. 
  • Always put on sunscreen, preferably 50+. 
  • Wear appropriate clothing.
  • Try and not sit in direct sunlight. 
  • If you are looking for a tan, spray it on.

4.  If I do accidentally get sunburnt, what should I do?

Use lots of moisturiser until it heals. If it’s painful, take an anti-inflammatory like ibuprofen as that can help significantly.

5.  When should I seek treatment for sunburn?

If you have blistering sunburn or it’s very painful, it can be useful to have a dressing and prescription cream to help healing.

6.  How do I balance practising sun safety with maintaining my vitamin D levels?

It’s important not to go without sunscreen during peak UV times due to concerns about vitamin D deficiency. In Australia in the summer months, and all year round up north e.g. Brisbane and Darwin, only a few minutes outside in the sun on most days is required to generate sufficient vitamin D in the body, at least for a fair-skinned person. You can get this exposure outside of peak UV times.
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