Be Sun Smart

It’s summertime in Australia and that means BBQ’s,
cricket and days at the beach. If you are not careful it can also
mean sunburn.

Australia and New Zealand have the highest rates of skin cancer
in the world. More than 430,000 Australians are treated a year for
skin cancers. Of these, over 10,500 new cases of melanoma are
diagnosed. Each year there are around 1850 deaths from melanoma and
non-melanoma skin cancer.

The major cause of skin cancer is too much exposure to
ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun. Skin can burn in as little
as 15 minutes in the summer sun so it is important to protect your
skin from UV radiation.

Click here for a SunSmart
fact sheet and don’t forget to Slip, Slop, Slap, Seek and

All fact sheets have been provided by Cancer Council Australia.
Please visit or call 13 11 20 for
more information.


Sunburn is damage to the skin that results from overexposure
of the skin to UV rays..
There are three types of ultraviolet (UV) radiation – UVA, UVB
and UVC. UVA causes premature ageing of the skin and contributes to
the development of skin cancer. UVB causes sunburn and skin cancer.
UVC is filtered out by the ozone layer and does not reach the
earth’s surface. 
Signs and symptoms of Sunburn appear 1 to 24 hours after
exposure. They include redness, inflammation, scaling, pain,
swelling, skin tenderness and blisters. If a large part of the body
has been exposed, symptoms such as fever, chills, weakness and
shock may occur.
NOTE: Experts believe that Sunburn during childhood can
significantly increase a person’s risk of developing malignant
melanoma later in life 
As with all conditions, your Doctor is the best person to
treat cases of severe Sunburn. 
  • Your Doctor will advise you to stay out of the sun until the
    Sunburn has subsided.
  • Your Doctor may suggest cold water compresses to relieve the
    Sunburn symptoms.
  • Sun exposure causes changes in the skin (commonly referred to
    as premature ageing) and leads to the development of moles,
    seborrhoeic keratoses, solar kerotoses (sun spots), basal cell
    carcinomas, squamous cell carcinomas and melanomas. See your Doctor
    if there is any unusual skin condition or spot that has not healed
    within four weeks. This includes any lump, sore, ulcer or scaly
    patch on the skin, or white patch on the lips. New techniques for
    identifying skin cancers include the use of a hand-held microscope
    that is run over the body and can detect and take pictures of
    suspicious lesions. Regular skin self examination can detect Skin
    Cancer in its early stage. Ask your Doctor for advice.
See the Skin Cancer topic on the Healthpoint for more
  • Avoid eating hot and spicy foods as this can increase the body
    temperature and cause the skin to flush which may aggravate the
    pain of Sunburn.
  • Avoid alcohol as it increases the temperature of the skin and
    contributes to fluid loss.
  • Fresh salads and fruits are recommended as they are easy to
    digest, they have a high water content to help replace lost fluids
    and are high in the vitamins and minerals needed for tissue
  • Try to drink at least 6 to 8 glasses of fresh, filtered water
    daily to avoid dehydration which is a common consequence of
    Sunburn. Fresh fruit and vegetable juices are also recommended for
    their high vitamin, mineral and fluid contents. Dehydration can
    cause; weakness, headache, fever and a rapid heart rate. Try to
    give the person with Sunburn plenty of fluids.
  • Try to stay in the shade during the day, wear protective
    clothing, a broad-brimmed hat, sunglasses and sunscreen. The period
    between 10am and 3pm is when the sun’s ulraviolet radiation levels
    are highest.
  • Use a broad-spectrum, water resistant sunscreen with an SPF
    (sun protection factor) of 30+. Broad spectrum sunscreens block out
    UVA and UVB.
  • Apply sunscreen 30 to 60 minutes before going out in the sun –
    it takes 30 minutes for sunscreen to bind strongly to the skin.
    Reapply sunscreen every 2 hours or more frequently if you have been
    swimming, working or exercising outdoors or if you live in a humid
  • It is important to apply an adequate amount of sunscreen –
    about 20g for one application to the major exposed parts of the
  • Remember that UVB rays pass through clouds, fog, 30cm of clear
    water and are reflected by snow, sand and bright sky, increasing
Supplements may only be of value if dietary intake is
  • Antioxidants such as vitamin E and vitamin C help to reduce the
    severity of Sunburn symptoms.
  • The use of PABA in sunscreens is common as it has a proven
    protective effect against Sunburn when applied to the skin. Taking
    PABA internally may also help to reduce the severity of Sunburn,
    however, high doses may be harmful.
  • Aloe (Aloe vera) is a herb with succulent leaves. The gel from
    these leaves, when applied to sunburned skin, may help to improve
    the recovery time of skin damaged by Sunburn.
  • Calendula is a herb which may be taken internally or applied to
    the skin. Calendula reduces inflammation and has antiseptic and
    gentle astringent actions and calendula may help burns to heal more
    rapidly. Calendula should not be applied to broken skin and should
    be used in a gel or cream form as an ointment or oil-base may
    aggravate the Sunburn.
Ask your Pharmacist for advice on Sunburn.
  1. The best advice to avoid skin damage is to stay out of the sun,
    especially between 10am and 3pm. 
  2. Use a SPF 30+ broad spectrum sunscreen on the skin 30 to 60
    minutes before exposure to the sun and reapply every 2 hours or
    more frequently if you have been swimming, working or exercising
    outdoors or if you live in a humid climate. 
  3. Waterproof sunscreens are recommended for swimming and in
    situations where you are outdoors and are likely to sweat
    .Moisturising sunscreens are available for use every day because UV
    damage occurs every time you go into the sun, even on cloudy days.
    Ask your Pharmacist about low allergy sunscreens if you have
    sensitive skin.
  4. Always apply an even coating of sunscreen. All exposed skin
    should be covered with special care to lips, nose, ears and scalp.
    A special sunscreen lip balm is available.
  5. If you go out in the sun it is recommended that you wear
    protective clothing such as a long sleeved shirt or blouse, a
    broad-rimmed hat and sunglasses. 

    Ask your Pharmacist about protective clothing and UV filter
    sunglasses to prevent damage to the eyes. Use sunglasses that are
    close fitting, preferably wrap around and have an eye protection
    factor of 10.

  6. Your Pharmacist may suggest pain relief tablets to help lower
    high body temperature and ease the pain of Sunburn.
  7. A cold water compresses applied to the skin will help to
    relieve the symptoms.
  8. Your Pharmacist may recommend a soothing gel e.g aloe vera and
    an aftersun moisturiser to relieve the symptoms of Sunburn and to
    help the skin to heal.
  9. Ask your Pharmacist about a suitable pain-relieving spray for