One of the unintended consequences of lockdown and people spending more time in their gardens or yards could be an increased risk of sunburn, according to the Public Health Agency (PHA) and Cancer Focus Northern Ireland.
The two bodies are using Sun Awareness Week [May 4-10] to encourage people to remember to stay sun safe in the current circumstances and be aware of ultraviolet (UV) radiation.
Denise McCallion, Senior Health Improvement Officer at the PHA, said: “Our behaviours have very much changed since guidance was introduced to help prevent the spread of coronavirus. This will inevitably mean people will be spending more time in their gardens or yards, or going outdoors for their once-daily exercise. While it is important to look after our physical and mental health by keeping active, we also need to be sun safe and ensure that both adults and children are not overexposed to the sun.
“The Solar UV Index, which is available at www.metoffice.gov.uk/uv, shows how much solar radiation is reaching us from the sun and how careful we need to be. When the UV index is three or more we need to protect our skin and eyes. It is important to know what the UV index is going to be throughou the day.
“In Northern Ireland we are exposed to higher levels of UV rays between March and October, even on a cool or cloudy day. The sun is particularly strong around the middle of the day, from 11am to 3pm.
“As the lockdown continues, and many of us are spending more time outdoors close to home as the weather improves, it is important that we stay safe in the sun, and being UV aware can help with this. Children especially need to be protected from the sun, and being at home rather than in the classroom can mean they are outside more than usual, meaning we need to take steps to protect them.
“Spending time outdoors, whether it be during our daily exercise, or spending time in the garden, is good for our health. Time outside lifts our mood and also provides vitamin D. For most people, just a few minutes’ exposure to the sun is enough to top up our vitamin D levels. However, over-exposure to UV radiation can cause permanent damage to our skin.”
Top tips to help protect against harmful UV rays:
know the UV index and when the UV index is three or more, protect your skin and eyes;
seek shade when the UV rays are strongest between 11am and 3pm;
cover up in the sun with a long sleeved t-shirt and a broad brim hat;
wear sunglasses that have CE or British Standard Marks, which carry a UV 400 label and offer 100% UV protection. This will ensure they provide adequate protection from both UVA and UVB;
sunglasses should fit your face well and relatively snugly so that light doesn't enter your eye from around the lens;
use sunscreen with a minimum of SPF 15 for UVB protection and UVA 4-stars.