In Depth

UK heatwave: the best sunburn remedies

Warnings as Britain faces hottest mid-June temperatures in more than a century

People are flocking to beaches and parks as the UK basks in a heatwave, but experts have issued fresh warnings over the dangers of sunbathing.

Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the UK, the British Skin Foundation says. Seven people a day die of the disease and rates are rising. Given UV exposure is the main preventable cause, these tips will keep you sun safe:

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 previous summery spell, 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?

Today has been the hottest day of the year so far, with the mercury soaring to 30.8C in the Welsh town of Porthmadog, beating yesterday’s peak of 30.6C.

 Forecasters are predicting a high of 33C for Thursday, far exceeding Britain’s June average of 17.3C.

The sizzling conditions are set to continue until the weekend for most of the UK, with the Met Office warning that there is an 80% chance of temperatures being a risk to health.

The warning, for the south-west, north-west and north-east of England, and the West Midlands, lasts until Thursday evening, according to the BBC.

Temperatures “will ease off slightly into the weekend, but not a great deal, with most places around the mid-twenties as we get a bit of fresher air coming in”, says forecaster Simon Partridge.

Until then, motoring authorities have warned drivers to take care, since road temperatures could hit 50C. Softening tar could make surfaces stickier and skids more likely, the RAC says.

Meanwhile, Network Rail has been forced to introduce speed restrictions over fears that train tracks could buckle under the heat.

Rising temperatures have also prompted police warnings about cooling off in open water after a man drowned swimming in a lake in Nutfield, Surrey, on Monday evening, The Independent reports.

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