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THERE’S nothing like the arrival of some long-awaited sunshine to lift the spirits.
However, long, balmy days and the renewed lust for life that comes with them, can lead to all sorts of poor decision-making that affects our health, comfort and wellbeing.
To help keep your summer on track, we asked the experts to shed light on the season’s biggest health hazards and how to avoid them…
GETTING A BASE TAN
We know the dangers of sun damage, but it doesn’t stop many getting burned at the first sight of sun.
In fact, a worrying 23% of Brits don’t use sunscreen at all.*
“Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the UK, so sun protection is vital, and is also one of the most effective ways of keeping your skin looking young,” says Professor Brian Diffey of the British Association of Dermatologists, who advises using a sunscreen of at least SPF30 with high UVA protection (indicated by at least four stars on the bottle).
“On average, people miss applying sunscreen to 10% of their face – the most common site for skin cancer.
“So choose a formula you’re happy to apply frequently and generously, plus make use of shade and protective clothing.”
And don’t fool yourself that establishing a base layer tan is somehow beneficial. “Any tan is a sign your skin has been damaged,” warns Professor Diffey.
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BATTLING ON WITH BLISTERS
A blister can really put you off your stride, and summer is particularly troublesome, given sweat causes friction in your sandals.
“The thin layers of skin can separate, causing redness and inflammation, and form a bubble-like sac if the rubbing continues,” says podiatrist and CEO of Osgo, Tony Gavin.
A well-fitting shoe is essential, yet nearly 30 million of us have damaged our feet through wearing ill-fitting footwear.**
“Get your feet measured – it isn’t just for children,” says Tony. “Keep feet as dry as possible, choose styles with adjustable fastenings for flexibility, and if a blister does develop, don’t pop it!
“Cut a hole in a piece of foam or felt, forming a doughnut over the blister, and secure it in place. Most blisters will heal by themselves within three to seven days.”
See your GP if yours shows signs of infection (hot, painful, oozing pus). Left untreated, you could develop cellulitis, which can infect your blood, muscles and bone.
NOT KEEPING YOUR COOL
We definitely romanticise the warm summer days, but the reality invariably involves dreaded heat rash with a side of chafing.
“Heat rash, AKA prickly heat, develops when blocked pores trap perspiration under the skin, which leads to bacteria build-up and inflammation, causing a rash and, in most cases, a layer of small itchy bumps,” says dermatologist Dr Derrick Phillips.
“Add a cold-water compress to the area or bathe in cool water, use healing creams that contain calming ingredients, such as Aveeno Baby Soothing Relief Emollient Cream, £6.99, and avoid scratching.”
As for chafing and inner-thigh rub, he advises: “Gently pat the skin dry, and apply petroleum jelly to the affected area.”
Discreet anti-chafing shorts worn under skirts and dresses can be a blessing, too.
SHOCK BY COLD WATER
Falling or jumping into cold water is a very real danger, due to the stress it puts the body under.
According to the RNLI, each year around 165 people lose their lives around the UK coastline, and over half of these deaths involve people who hadn’t even planned on entering the water, but who suffered trips or falls.
“Anything below 15°C is defined as cold water that can seriously affect your breathing and movement, and the average UK sea temperature is just 12°C,” says Gabbi Batchelor, RNLI water safety education manager.
“If you fall into water unexpectedly or find yourself struggling, our advice is: float to live,” adds Gabbi.
“Fight your instinct to thrash around, lean back, extend your arms and legs, and float.
“Once you’re in control of your breathing, you’re in a position to call for help or swim to safety.”
Bites Swatting away unwelcome guests is seemingly unavoidable in summer, at home or abroad, when your skin proves a feast for airborne bugs.
“Cover up, especially at sunset and in the evening, and use an insect repellent containing the likes of DEET, picaridin, and oil of lemon eucalyptus,” says Dr Stuart Sanders, GP at The London General Practice.
Although scratching provides momentary, blissful relief if you’ve been bitten or stung, resist the urge – you’ll make matters worse.
“If the sting is visible, it should be extracted with tweezers,” says Dr Sanders. “Wash the area and apply antiseptic or antihistamine cream.
A cold compress can also ease swelling, pain and itching, while antihistamine tablets can reduce the allergic reaction if you experience raised blisters.”
NOT DRINKING ENOUGH
Water accounts for almost two-thirds of your body weight and about 73% of your brain.
Yet 43% of people don’t think they get enough H2O because they simply forget to drink water.***
“Signs of dehydration include extreme thirst, headache and tiredness.
“Your urine will be a dark-yellow colour and pungent, and you may even feel dizzy, in which case speak to a doctor or pharmacist, who can recommend rehydration sachets that replenish the electrolytes in your body,” says Hussain Abdeh, superintendent pharmacist at Medicine Direct.
“Keep a reusable water bottle with you at all times, so you can take regular sips, and break up alcoholic drinks with pints of water.”
Aim to drink six to eight glasses of water a day, and if you’re sweating lots, drink enough that your pee is pale.
Sunnies bring a touch of glam, but more importantly, they help protect your eyes from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays.
“UV light is associated with cataracts, eye cancers, sunburned eyes and growths on or near the eye.
“The sun can also cause ageing and pigmentation changes to the skin of the eyelids,” says Vik Sharma, consultant ophthalmologist at London Ophthalmology Centre.
“You need to think about protecting your eyes with sunglasses that have robust lens protection levels (look for UV400 protection).
“Remember, clouds do not block UV light, and be aware that UV light is strongest from noon to early afternoon.
“Wear a hat as well if you can – broad-rimmed or baseball caps are best for shading your face.”
FOLLOWING FAD BIKINI-BODY PLANS
Desperate to look your best on the beach? It’s all about choosing a healthy way to reach your goal.
“Don’t believe in so-called fast-acting solutions, such as skinny teas and fat-burning gummies. They don’t work and aren’t safe,” says Dr Nadja Auerbach, clinical operations associate at Thriva Health.
“Side effects of rapid weight loss include severe dehydration and electrolyte imbalance, which can cause gallstones and nutrient deficiencies.“
“People often lose more muscle than fat, and frequently regain the weight lost, leading to a pattern of yo-yo dieting, which can be damaging to mental and physical health,” she adds.
“Instead, focus on building strength and fitness, and eating to nourish your body, which will set you up for success in the long-term.
“Unfollow social media accounts that trigger negative feelings about your body, and practise cultivating self-compassion, by appreciating and respecting what your body can do, rather than valuing it based on its appearance.”
Think again if you’re comparing yourself to strangers online. Your health is more important than beauty standards.