At the beach, using sunscreen with a high Sun Protection Factor (SPF) is essential. It offers protection from the sun when exposure is unavoidable. The summer sun is most harmful to your skin in the middle of the day. Ensure you spend time in the shade between 11am and 3pm, under umbrellas, trees, canopies or indoors. A common question often asked is ‘should I reapply sunscreen if I swim?’ The answer is yes – water washes off sunscreen, and the cooling effect of water can make you think you’re not getting burned. Water also reflects UV rays, increasing your exposure to the sun.
Vitamin D is essential for healthy bones, and we get most of our vitamin D from exposure to sunlight. There isn’t one recommendation for everyone when it comes to how much exposure you should have to the sun, however, a trip to the beach is an opportunity to top up your vitamin D levels. It is, however, very important to take precautions and expose yourself to the sun safely. Short periods of sun exposure without sunscreen during the summer months (April to October) are enough for most people to make enough vitamin D. The larger the area of skin that is exposed to sunlight, the more chance there is of making enough vitamin D before you start to burn.
An active or relaxing visit to the beach is always enjoyable, however, due to the summer heat, it’s important to ensure you have plenty of water to drink. Even on a cool day, the sun and wind can dehydrate you.
Whilst spending time at the beach, drink plenty of fluids – such as water, semi-skimmed milk, diluted squash or fruit juice, however, it's best to avoid caffeine, fizzy drinks and alcohol, as these cause you to urinate more often.
Some of the early warning signs of dehydration include:
• Feeling thirsty and light-headed
• Dark, strong-smelling urine
• Passing urine less often than usual.
As the sun is out, it’s important to take extra care of our eyesight. Sunglasses are essential to protect your eyes from sun damage whilst at the beach. If you are sensitive, or sunburn easily, try wide or wraparound sunglasses to cover delicate eyelids. Reflected light can also be a problem, both from the sea or light-coloured sand. You may find it helpful to wear a hat to help shade your eyes from harmful UV rays.
In the water
Every summer, lifeguards respond to thousands of incidents on beaches around the world. To avoid getting into any difficulty, it is best to swim at a beach patrolled by lifeguards. Trained experts are available instantly if there are any problems at any time. Always follow any information and advice you come across. Ask at the local tourist office to find out about the facilities, and the best areas to swim.
Ensure you know your flag colours. At beaches patrolled by lifeguards, different flags tell you where it’s safest to swim and which areas are for water sports.
Feeling the sand between your toes is essential to the beach experience, however, when temperatures peak, the hot sand can feel uncomfortable and even cause burns. Ensure you bring a pair of shoes with you in case the sand gets unbearably hot, and for protection against broken glass, sharp shells or hard rocks.
The information in these pages is intended as general advice only. If you or your family members require medical advice or have any medical concerns, please contact your GP.