Steps to prevent sunburn and heatstroke

Statistics from the Met Office state that this summer is likely to be the hottest since the year 2006. For many of us however, we cannot remember what a hot summer feels like, and as such, fail to take the proper precautions when we are out and about.

It’s different when we go abroad, as the heat is noticeably hotter, and we take steps to prevent sunburn, heatstroke and properly take preventative steps to keep safe in the sun. But in the UK, where we rarely get the top temperatures associated with our European cousins, we often let our guards slip, and as a consequence, misjudge the warmer weather.

Image courtesy Monica &Michael Sweet/Flickr

Image courtesy Monica & Michael Sweet/Flickr

So what should you do if you have had too much sun? There are some preventive steps you take put in place in advance, and some aftercare measures to ensure the problem does not escalate.

Be ready

Always keep some medication cooling in the fridge, such as a tube of aloe vera gel, or a bottle of calamine lotion. Aloe vera works for mild to moderate sunburns on both the face and body and is even better if it has been cooling in the fridge. Simply smooth over the affected areas where there is any redness or the sufferer feels soreness and it will start to immediately reduce irritation and redness. The inflammation will calm down and the burning feeling will stop.

Calamine is also a medicine that is traditionally used to relieve itching and soothe minor skin irritations. When applied to the skin the calamine evaporates, which then produces the cooling effect that helps relieve the sunburn. Calamine lotions and creams also contain the active ingredient zinc oxide, which has antiseptic properties. You can apply both medications as often as required.


If you do not have any appropriate medication to hand, then it is easy to improvise by making a cold poultice and laying this on the affected skin. Never put ice directly onto burnt skin, but instead, rinse a flannel with ice cold water and lay this onto the affected area.

As the flannel heats up, remove it and keep rinsing it in the ice cold water, then reapply it onto the burnt area. If the area is larger than the size of a flannel, consider putting the sufferer into a shower under a cooling spray of water, until the area has suitably cooled down. Remember that heatstroke is a very serious medical condition, so if the person starts to show any signs of mental confusion, shallow and rapid breathing, or they lose consciousness, you should ring the emergency services. Get them to drink cool water and keep them as cool as possible while you are waiting.

Keep an SOS Skin Kit

These are a few essential items to keep with you whilst you are on holiday or out and about, when the weather is hot.

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Holland & Barrett Aloe Vera Gel – £4.68 – Great for minor irritations, 100% pure and certified by the International Aloe Vera Council, and small enough to go in your SOS kit. From HollandandBarrett.com

La Roche-Posay Cicaplast Baume B5 £15.50 – The all purpose balm that soothes and regenerates stressed out and damaged skin. From Boots.com

Nuxe Masque Crème Fraiche de Beaute £19.50 – An intensively nourishing masque that helps to calm and rehydrate sun tired skin. Leaving it looking fresh and moisturized. From MarksandSpencers.com.

Finally, prevention is always better than cure, so keep in the shade, wear a high SPF sun block when you are out and apply it half an hour before you go into the sun, drink plenty of fluids and try to stay out of the sun during peak times of 11am and 3pm.

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