Sun Safety, Preventative Tips
We all know it’s a good idea to head for the shade in the middle of a long, hot summer’s day on the beach, boat or playing sports, but what about around the home? New research from the Australian Cancer Council1 shows that around half of weekend sunburns occur while people are going about day-to-day activities – and surprisingly, the home has replaced the beach as the key place people are getting sunburnt.
For adults, 50% of sunburn occurs during everyday activities such as gardening and chores, along with passive recreation activities such as reading, enjoying a picnic in the park or having a BBQ. Which is why the latest SunSmart guidelines including ‘slipping’ into the shade of an umbrella or leafy tree – or planning outdoor activities for early or later in the day when the sun’s UV levels are lower.
8 ways to ensure your shade makes the grade
Here are eight ways to improve the shade around your home – especially for young children and teens - and to ensure you head for the shade when you’re out and about.
1. Shade your deck and outdoor areas.
Decades ago, villas and bungalows were commonly built with covered verandahs, but as houses have become more modern and streamlined, unfortunately, so has the shade. There are dozens of shade options available for outdoor areas – from outdoor umbrellas or shade sails, to fixed or retractable awnings, to more permanent structures. And they don’t have to be expensive – a cheap shade sail is better than no shade. You can find a range of DIY options at home maintenance stores to keep costs down.
Above: a canvas gazebo can be an economical sun protection measure during the summer months
2. Add a gazebo or pergola.
Adding even a small gazebo to your backyard or front yard creates a covered seating area where you can read, relax or visit with friends – or where children can play. Installing a gazebo instantly adds an outdoor room that comes with its own shade and protection from the elements, so it’s a great option if you have the budget and space in your garden.
Pergolas tend to have an open roof and offer broken shade, but over summer, you can enhance this by adding a fabric covering – and/or rolling shades that can be pulled down as needed.
3. Install an outdoor room and/or shuttered roof.
You can turn a deck or veranda into an outdoor room by adding a roof and/or rolling shades – or get creative and build an outdoor room in a sheltered part of the garden, away from the house. Shuttered roofs are an expensive option, but on the plus side, they’re very versatile, offering shade in summer and cover from the elements in winter.
Above: outdoor areas can be fun while providing protection from the sun
4. Plant trees for shade.
Shade trees are an eco-friendly and inexpensive way to add shade to outdoor living areas. You’ll need to select varieties that will provide shade, but you can easily find plenty of options at your local nursery or by working with a landscape designer. Many shade trees are deciduous, but that means you’ll have more sun and less shade in the winter months.
If you place shade trees strategically, it can also lower the cost of cooling your home over summer. On the downside, it can take means years for the trees to grow large enough to provide enough shade, but it’s definitely worth considering as you plan a garden. If you live in an apartment or smaller house, simply adding tall plants to the edge of your deck or balcony can help create shade and keep your home cooler.
Above: plan wisely by planting shade trees in your back yard
5. Do chores earlier – or later – in the day.
Did you know that your skin can get damaged in just a few minutes over summer months? So if you’re gardening, mowing lawns, hanging out washing or doing any other outdoor chores, try to do it in the early morning or late in the afternoon. You’ll not only feel a whole lot cooler while you’re working, you’ll avoid the sun when its UV rays are most damaging – between 10am and 4pm. If you must be outside in the middle of the day, wear a hat, sunglasses and SFP30+ sunscreen – or cover up with with long-sleeved clothing
6. Aim for shade at the beach, park or pool.
If you’re heading to a summer hot spot such as a beach, river, lake or a pool, think about shade before you get there. Are there plenty of trees? Or covered seating? If not, take a sun umbrella, tent, gazebo or even a rain umbrella – something to shade you from the skin-damaging effects of the sun – especially between 10am and 4pm during the daylight savings months.
If you’re at a playground with your kids, set up a base in a covered area, so children will keep coming back to the shade. And if you’re playing sport in the sun, reapply an SFP30+ sunscreen every two hours (or more often if you’re swimming or perspiring), and head for the shade whenever you can.
Above: make use of naturally shaded areas when you are out and about in the daylight savings months
7. Take a brolly – even in summer.
Heading out for a summer stroll, or walking to work? Even if it’s just a short walk, any exposure to the sun adds up and increases your risk of skin damage and cancers such as melanoma. Always wear a hat, sunnies and sunscreen and cover up with clothing as much as possible. You can even use a rain umbrella to shade you from the sun instead – it’s better than getting sunburnt!
8. Get creative with children’s play areas.
Sunburn at any age increases the risk of melanoma in later life2. So when kids are playing outside in summer, find clever ways to create plenty of shade for them. For example, you can create your own DIY canopy with bamboo, fabric and some rope, or string up a row of parasols over a walkway. Another option is to throw a sheet over a rope tied between two trees or posts to make a tent-like structure so your children can play outside, but out of the sun.
A teepee, yurt or tent is always hugely popular with kids – or a more permanent playhouse or tree hut is a great way to keep them busy indoors. And if you’re building or buying outdoor play areas for kids such as slides, swings or a sand-pit, ensure it’s covered as much as possible.
Sunscreen every day: skin check every year
Wherever you are and whatever you’re doing over summer months, if you’re outside between 10am and 4pm, stay SunSmart. Wear a hat, sunglasses, clothing to cover as much of the skin as possible, and stay in the shade whenever possible. Even better, plan outdoor activities to avoid the middle part of the day during daylight savings months.
Sources: 1. https://www.cancer.org.au/news/media-releases/one-in-two-aussie-sunburns-occur-during-everyday-activity.html 2. Melanoma NZ - https://www.melanoma.org.nz/be-informed/understanding
Note: This quick questionnaire is designed to give you an idea of your personal skin cancer risk factors.
It isn’t intended to be a substitute for medical advice or diagnosis – please contact us if you have any questions about your skin cancer risk.
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