Summer is right on the horizon, and so too is a sigh of relief. No more iced over window screens, wearing triple layers and weekends spent trying to think of weather appropriate activities. But while this change of seasons is certainly a welcome one, it can have its downfalls – primarily sunburn.
Luckily, we don’t have to sacrifice the great Australian summer as long as we’re smart about it. Here are our five top tips for staying safe outdoors this summer.
Moderation is key
No one could accuse Australians of not embracing their surrounds. We’re a country that loves the beach, especially when it comes to summer. However, before you dust off your bathers, grab your sunglasses and pull out your beach towel there are some things that need to be considered.
According to the Better Health Channel, Australia experiences some of the highest levels of UV radiation in the world because we are close to the equator and have many clear, blue-sky days.
This explains why we also have the highest rate of skin cancer in the world. So while enjoying the sun it’s important that we’re sensible about how long we spend outside. Keep moderation in mind when you plan outdoor activities and book them in for early morning, late afternoon or evening. Make sure shade is available when you are outdoors – bring a beach umbrella, picnic in the park under shady trees and book the restaurant that has an undercover outdoor area.
Avoid peak sun
While moderation is key to a smarter summer, choosing when to enjoy the sun is also integral. For a country with sun as harsh as ours, avoiding it at its peak can be a literal lifesaver.
In Australia, peak sun times are generally between 11am and 3pm during daylight saving, when the sun is closest to being directly overhead. It’s a good idea to monitor daily UV levels, and fortunately there’s an app for that! The SunSmart app by the Cancer Council Victoria is perfect for tracking Vitamin D, monitoring local UV levels and can be personalised. We also like the QSun app which is easy to use, provides a ‘time to burn’ indicator and analyses your skin health.
Osteoporosis Australia recommend that to get our necessary Vitamin D intake, we only need 5-10 minutes of sunshine a day during summer. If you can fit this in during the morning or afternoon, it’s easy to stay healthy and avoid any nasty burns, while still enjoying the best of summer.
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This one should go without saying. Sunscreen is as etched into the psyche of Australians as Vegemite, backyard cricket and an all-day BBQ.
Again, with a sun as harsh as ours it’s important to get a sunscreen that does the job – so it should come as no surprise that SPF 30+ OR 50+ are both recommended. When worn correctly, they’ll block up to 98% of the sun’s UV rays and should be reapplied every two hours, or more if you’re enjoying water activities. Sunscreen also has a use by date, so regularly check the use by date and make a habit of doing it at the start of each Summer.
Going hand in hand with sunscreen is covering up. Basically, the more of your body that’s covered by clothing, the better.
However, if you want to delve a bit deeper, the Australian Cancer Council recommends looking for materials with a close weave, and, interestingly, something to remember while you’re out swimming is that wet clothing is not as effective a barrier as dry clothing.
Covering up isn’t limited to your clothes, hats and sunglasses are also essential. When looking for a hat, you should simply look for something with a wide-brim to ensure it protects your face, head, neck and ears.
Glasses can be a bit more involved. SunSmart acknowledges that a hat and sunglasses worn together can reduce UV radiation exposure to the eyes up to 98 per cent. In addition to this, they recommend choosing close-fitting, wrap-around glasses that meet the Australian standard AS 1067.
Now you know how to best look after yourself, it’s time to shift your attention to your furry friends.
Veterinarian dermatologist Dr David Robson says that, “dogs and cats with light-coloured skin and a short coat are at most risk of sun damage.”
To help keep your pets safe during a hot summer, you can look to follow a lot of the same rules above. Moderating your pet’s time in the sun is the key to help them enjoy a smarter summer. Try to make sure they can avoid being outdoors in peak UV times, provide shade in the backyard and look for shade for your pet when you’re out and about. And if you want to go that step further – some companies are now even producing pet sunscreen!
Of course, while you’re enjoying a BBQ with friends or a gorgeous day on the beach, it can be hard to remain conscious of all these things. But if you do remember just a few tips, you can dodge the lobster look and avoid aloe vera gel all summer long.