Sunburn occurs when your skin is overexposed to UV radiation, continued overexposure dramatically increases the risk of developing skin cancer.
Extreme sunburn can be very serious and all sunburn can cause serious ongoing health effects. However, most people initially experience mild symptoms, such as hot red skin and fatigue.
Protecting yourself against sunburn is very important as excessive UV radiation directly damages the DNA in your skin cells. If this DNA doesn't correctly repair itself this can lead to skin cancer. Skin cancer is one of the most common cancers in the UK. Experts believe that four out of five cases of skin cancer could be prevented, as UV damage is mostly avoidable (World Health Organization).
There a number of ways to protect yourself against UV radiation and prevent sunburn. One of the most important factors in skin cancer prevention is to change behaviours so that the risks of UV radiation can be reduced. It is important that extra care is taken with children and babies.
The World Health Organisations recommends applying a broad-spectrum sunscreen of SPF 15+ liberally and re-apply every two hours, or after working, swimming, playing or exercising outdoors. A broad-spectrum sunscreen is one with a star rating of four stars or more meaning it offers protection against UVA and UVB. It is also important to realise that no sunscreen will provide you with 100% protection, so regularly apply a generous amount.
Seek shade from trees, umbrellas and canopies to reduce your exposure to UV radiation, especially when the sun is at its strongest between 11am and 3pm.
When the skin is covered the better it is protected. Tightly woven, loose-fitting clothes will provide more protection from UV radiation. A wide brim hat will protect your face and head, while a good pair of sunglasses, that offer 100% UV protection, will protect your eyes.
The World Health Organization says that sunbeds are best avoided entirely as they cause damage to the skin and unprotected eyes.
Our UV forecast is designed to warn you of an increased risk to your health from UV radiation and encourage you to take actions that reduce these risks, but still allow you to enjoy the benefits of the sun. Regularly checking the forecast will allow you to plan for the day ahead and make the necessary decisions that will reduce your risks.
The UV index (the strength of the sun) can be high at many times of the year, it doesn't have to be hot or there may be cloud cover, so it is important that you check the forecast throughout the year and in different weather conditions.
The UV forecast is delivered in an easy-to-understand index from 1 to 11+, which determines your level of exposure to UV radiation.
Last updated: 3 August 2012