Enjoying the Sun Sensibly – Stay SunSmart this Summer

Media Statement from the Independent Community Pharmacy Association of South Africa (ICPA) on enjoying the sun sensibly.

Enjoying the sun sensibly

Without the sun, life on this planet would be impossible. Most of the earth’s energy comes from the sun – it would be too cold to live here without the sun, and we need its energy to grow our food.

At this time of year, we make the most of the warm days to enjoy our leisure time. Days at the beach or next to the swimming pool just aren’t the same without the sun. The sun offers us the opportunity to improve our health – it has many health benefits, including strengthening our immune systems and improving our sleep.

“When we’re relaxing in the sun, our bodies produce vitamin D,” says Jackie Maimin, CEO of the Independent Community Pharmacy Association (ICPA). “This is essential for us to maintain strong bones, but we must remember that the sun can also cause skin problems.”

“Skin cancer is the most common cancer in South Africa,” continues Maimin. “Fortunately, we can take simple steps to reduce our risk.”

The most obvious precaution to take is to avoid being out of doors between 10 am and 3 pm, which is when the sun’s rays are strongest. This isn’t always possible so children should be taught that it’s best to play in the shade. If your shadow is shorter than you are when you are standing in the sun, you need to protect yourself from the sun’s rays by moving into the shade, or by using sunscreen.

Protective clothing is also important – hats and shirts can help to keep sensitive skin safe. Ideally, a hat should be wide-brimmed to protect the face, ears and neck.  Alternately, neck flaps can offer protection and are ideal for toddlers and young children, as well as for people playing outdoor sports.

In addition to protective clothing, sunscreens are useful in preventing sun damage to the skin. A sunscreen with a Skin Protection Factor (SPF) of at least 30 should be applied to all exposed skin about 15 minutes before going out of doors. It must be reapplied every two hours, even if the sky is cloudy, and immediately after swimming.

Babies need special attention. They have extremely sensitive skin and sunscreens should not be used in infants less than 6 months old. Make sure that the baby is always in the shade – use an umbrella if necessary. Sunscreens may be used for babies over 6 months old. “Your pharmacist will help you choose the most appropriate sunscreen for your baby and for you,” concludes Maimin.

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