Summer has finally arrived on the Mornington Peninsula, bringing with it warm, balmy nights and sun-drenched days with hours spent by the beach.
But our fun in the sun comes with repercussions that can last a lifetime, which means it’s never too early or too late to make summer safety a priority.
Summer Safety Tip #1 – Know the risks of UV radiation
Australia has some of the highest levels of Ultraviolet (UV) radiation in the world, due to our proximity to the equator, abundance of clear-sky days and closeness to the sun during our summer months.
Exposure to these invisible, ultraviolet rays of energy from the sun even for a short period of time has a harmful and long-lasting impact on our health and wellbeing. While the usual sunburn symptoms of blistering, peeling and redness subside, it’s what’s underneath that is cause for concern – damaged skin cells.
Even if the long-term effects of sun exposure don’t appear for a few years, the ability of our skin to heal and replenish its cells each time reduces as we age and can lead to permanent skin damage or malignant cancers like melanoma.
The sun’s UV rays are thought to account for 95 per cent of melanoma cases in Australia, but people may also be more susceptible to developing skin cancer if they have a history of bad sunburns, a fair skin type or a large number of moles, a compromised immune system or family history.
As part of your summer safety routine, stay aware of high UV levels by checking the daily UV Index charts published by the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA) or Bureau of Meteorology (BoM). When it shows level 3 or above, ensure you are going out with summer safety measures in place.
Being vigilant of your existing health risks is something you can’t take for granted when it comes to skin cancer and summer safety. Getting a yearly skin check at your local skin specialist can certainly prevent any suspicious-looking spots from turning into something more sinister.
Summer Safety Tip #2 – How can I protect my skin in summer?
While genetic factors still come into consideration, reducing your risk of developing skin cancer earlier on with summer safety measures can protect your skin from further exposure.
- Protect yourself from the sun by covering exposed skin with long sleeves and pants, wearing a broad-brimmed hat and sliding on polarised sunglasses with a lens category 3
- Ensure your sunscreen has an SPF rating of 50+
- Limit the time you are outside during the hottest part of the day, or make sure you keep to the shade as much as possible.
- Moisturise regularly and use aloe vera to keep your skin supple and cool
- Keep an eye on freckles, moles, and age spots as they grow and change
Summer Safety Tip #3 – The Dangers of Heat Stress
It’s easy to become complacent about keeping cool in hot weather when you don’t feel the symptoms of heat stress immediately, but summer safety tip #3 is important to remember – prolonged exposure to high temperatures can have detrimental and even fatal consequences.
Extreme heat can affect anybody, and heat-related illnesses such as a rash or cramps can suddenly take a turn for the worse if summer safety precautions aren’t taken.
Signs of heat stress include a headache, heavy sweating, fainting, nausea or vomiting and an increased breathing rate. Sufferers may also have a fever and experience unexplained changes in behaviour, such as being confused or agitated.
Young children, seniors, people with disabilities and those with chronic health conditions are most at risk of developing heat stress, especially when they may find it hard to regulate their temperatures due to various factors or articulate their discomfort.
Heat stress can fast become heatstroke without proper awareness and prevention. And heatstroke can be fatal.
If you or a family member start to experience any of these symptoms, seek medical assistance as soon as possible. Waiting for symptoms to reside will most likely worsen your condition and increase the likelihood of a medical emergency.
Summer Safety Tip #4 – What can you do to reduce heat stress?
Keep yourself and your family cool this summer by following these top tips for summer safety:
- Drink plenty of water. Regardless of how active you are, you need to drink more water during hot weather and never wait until you are thirsty. Carry a water bottle with you wherever you go, take frequent sips, and avoid drinks with lots of sugar
- Place damp towels around your neck, put your feet in cool water (like the bath or a smaller tub) and take cool showers. Turn on the air conditioner if necessary or visit a public place such as a shopping centre or library that has one
- Block out the sun as much as you can. Close large windows to keep the cool air in and ensure internal blinds are drawn
- Wear loose and light-weight clothing. Light-coloured clothing (white, yellow, pastels) reflects heat so it will keep you cooler for longer
- Stay in touch with family throughout the day by phone, texts or video call, especially older family members
- Summer safety includes your pets as well. Bring them indoors during the hottest part of the day and provide them with lots of cool drinking water. You can also freeze treats into an ice block or purchase a cooling mat for their bed
Summer safety measures can save lives. With the effects of UV rays and heat stress lasting long after they first appear, keeping on top of your physical health and safety every summer is vital. For more information, visit www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/heat.