Guide to Sun Safety & Exposure

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Sunlight is an extremely valuable gift of nature that has numerous benefits.  However, too much of even a good thing can be harmful.  Overexposure to sunlight can have severe consequences including skin cancer.  Australia has one the highest rates of skin cancer in the world.  According to the Cancer Council, Australia:

  • Skin cancers account for around 80% of all newly diagnosed cancers;
  • Overexposure to the sun is the cause of 95 and 99% of skin cancers;

Sun Safety and Physical Activity: Very useful information about sun safety from the Queensland government.

Sun Protection at Work: This resource provides a lot of information about sun protection while working outdoors.

Webchild: This site provides essential information about sun safety.

Sun Safe: This video teaches young children about sun safety.

UV (Ultraviolet) Light and Our Skin

The energy released by the Sun contains several types of radiation including:

  • Infrared radiation, which keeps us warm
  • Visible light, which enables us to see the world around us
  • Ultraviolet radiation, which affects our health

Overexposure to sunlight allows UV rays to cause damage to our skin such as sunburn, wrinkling, etc.  The biggest damage it can do is cause skin cancer.  Skin cancer is one of the most common types of cancers and the most vulnerable areas are the lower lip, head and neck.  Australians have a high propensity for developing skin cancer. A great resource with fun and educational information for kids to be sun safe.

Sun Sense: Sun safety information for school going kids.

Protecting Children from Sunburn: This resource teaches you how to keep your children safe from sunburns.

Kidshealth: A great resource that discusses how to be safe when you are exposed to the sun in outdoors.

Heat-Related Illnesses

Excessive exposure to the sun can cause mild to severe illnesses.  Some of the heat related illnesses include:
Dehydration: This means that your body doesn’t have enough water.  Its symptoms include fatigue, minimal urine output, cramps in the legs, etc.

Sun Stroke: A serious condition, which may lead to death if not treated promptly.  Its symptoms include drowsiness, high temperature, confusion, high pulse rate, nausea, vomiting and shallow breathing;

Heat Exhaustion: The symptoms include dizziness, headache, fatigue, nausea and clammy skin

Sun Safety: This is an educational and informational flyer about Sun safety.

Vitamin D: Everything you want to know about vitamin D is on this factsheet including dosage, controversies, etc.

Radiation Protection: Official information about protection from radiation including UV rays from the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency.

Sun Safety Protection: This guide teaches you how to protect your baby’s skin from sun damage.

How to Prevent Heat Related Illnesses and Sun Damage?

  • Drink plenty of water, at least 10-12 glasses per day.  During periods of increased physical activity, increase fluid intake;
  • If you are supposed to be engaged in strenuous physical activity during the day time, try to plan it before 11 am or after 4 pm because this is the window when sunlight is most intense;
  • Keep your body temperature down by using fans, air conditioners, or taking a couple of showers a day during summer time;
  • Don’t eat heavy meals;

Sun Safety Queensland Government: The official website from the Queensland government about sun safety in schools.
Skin and Cancer Foundation: This site includes information about skin cancer, its prevention, treatment, etc. 
myDr: A useful site with detailed information about sun safety.
Worldnomads: This site provides information about sun safety on the beaches of Australia.

Sun Safety Tips

  • The sunlight is most intense during 11 Am and 4 PM, so avoid prolonged exposure to sun in this window of time;
  • From the beginning of Spring to the end of Summer, wear light colored clothes that cover the majority of your skin and also wear hats that provide shade for your face;
  • When you are outside during day time, don’t forget to wear sunscreen with at least SPF 15 and with UVA and UVB protection.  Apply the sunscreen at least half an hour before going outside and reapply after every two hours, as long as you are under the sun;
  • Children have the most sensitive skin so keep young children’s exposure to the sun to a minimum.  Don’t apply sunscreen to kids less than six months old; they should be kept in a shady area instead;
  • Be careful even on cloudy days because 80 percent of sun’s radiation can penetrate through light clouds;
  • Do not use tanning beds;

Cancer Council Queensland: Useful information about early detection of skin cancer, sun safety in general and many other resources.
Queensland Health: A government website providing information about Sun safety including dangers of tanning beds, heat related illnesses, etc.

Falon's Quest: A fun game to teach children about protecting themselves from the harmful radiation of the Sun.

Sun Safety guidelines for secondary schools: Guidelines from the Queensland government about sun safety in schools.

Misconceptions about Sunlight Damage

Tanning in natural light is good: Although tanning beds are definitely harmful, tanning in natural sunlight is also not without harm.  Overexposure to sunlight, even without getting sunburn, increases the chances of developing skin cancer.

Sunscreen may cause vitamin D deficiency: If you get normal exposure to sunlight and eat a healthy diet with foods containing vitamin D, you get the necessary amount of vitamin D.  Sunscreen does not block the sunlight completely and let enough UV rays through to help your body synthesize vitamin D.

No need for sunscreen in cloudy weather: It may seem that clouds are blocking the sunlight so there is no possibility of skin damage.  However, in reality, about 80 percent of the sunlight passes through light clouds.

Most sun damage happens when we are younger (less than 18 years): Contrary to the common belief that 80 percent of the skin damage occurs before the age of 18, according to recent studies, only 25 percent damage happens before 18.  The rest happens in later years.

Sun Smart: Lots of information about the risks of excessive sun exposure, prevention, tips, etc.
Sun Wise: A program of the EPA dedicated to teaching sun safety to K-12 students.

Sun safety: A very informative slide show about skin cancer prevention.

Skin Cancer Council Australia: Authoritative information about skin cancer such as its symptoms, causes, prevention and treatments.
Sun Safety Alliance: A downloadable guide for teachers about sun safety.





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