UK heatwave: The best ways to treat sunburn

May 9, 2016

Sunday was the warmest day of the year so far - and many Brits have been left red and peeling

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Britons are flocking to beaches and parks as the weather warms up, but experts have issued fresh warnings over the danger of sunbathing.

A poll for Sun Awareness Week, which begins today, found that 80 per cent of people fail to adequately apply sunscreen before going out in the sun. As a result, have been left red and peeling after the sun-drenched weekend.

What is the best remedy for sunburn?

Sunburn occurs when skin is damaged by ultraviolet light, usually brought about by over-exposure to the sun. Skin can become red, sore, warm, tender and occasionally itchy for about a week. It is also likely to flake and peel after a few days.

According to the NHS, these are the best ways to relieve the symptoms:

  • Cool the skin by sponging it with cold water or by having a cold bath or shower. It can also help to apply a cold flannel to affected areas.
  • Drink plenty of fluids.
  • Keep your skin moist by applying a water-based emollient or petroleum jelly.
  • Take painkillers such as ibuprofen or paracetamol to relieve any pain.
How can I prevent sunburn?

Light clothing, shade and sunscreen are key, particularly between 11am and 3pm, when the sun's rays are at their strongest. Sunscreens should have at least four-star UVA protection and at least SPF15 sunscreen to protect against UVB, says the NHS. Most adults need at least six to eight teaspoons to protect their body. Sunscreen also needs to be reapplied frequently, including straight after you have been in water, even if it is "water-resistant".

Are heatwaves really dangerous?

"Bake Britain" may be a pleasant place to be for sun-lovers, but heatwaves can be dangerous for the very young and very old and those with chronic disease. "Although many of us like to enjoy the hot and sunny weather, it is advisable to do so safely and also remember that some people are more vulnerable than others to the heat," says Sky weather presenter Nazaneen Ghaffar.

During a summery spell last July, the Sydney Morning Herald seemed amused at the "state of alarm" caused by "Britain's (sort of) heatwave", noting that some cities in Australia had 18 days of consecutive high temperatures, with the mercury hitting 40C on several days.

But the UK's health officials say their warnings should not be taken lightly, noting that 300 people died in a four-day heatwave in July 2009 and more than 2,000 died in the ten-day heatwave of August 2003, when temperatures reached 38.5C.

How long will the heatwave last?

Sunday was the warmest day of the year so far, with a high of 27.1C recorded in central London. Sunny spells and patchy cloud are expected throughout the rest of the week, with showers for some parts of the UK.

"This weekend and the start of next week will see a lot of fine and dry weather," says the Met Office, although some rain is likely at times, mainly in the north and east. Conditions look likely to become "unsettled" from the middle of next week, especially in the north and west, where showers or longer spells of rain are expected.

However, the fine and dry conditions will continue in the south and east with temperatures trending upwards.

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