Aussies are urged to slip, slop, slap this long weekend as new SunSmart data names January as the peak month for sunburn at Victorian hospital emergency departments.
Public emergency department data has revealed a record 190 Victorian sunburn cases in January last year, with 355 people presenting with sunburn across the 2016-17 financial year alone.
SunSmart manager Heather Walker said it was alarming to see so many sunburns requiring emergency treatment, warning that all sunburn – no matter how severe – is a sign of UV damage.
“Sunburn is a very preventable condition, and almost all of these cases could have been avoided with the use of good sun protection,” Ms Walker said.
“Severe, blistering sunburn that requires emergency treatment is not only very painful, it also increases your risk of skin cancers, including melanoma.
“While sunburn will heal and fade, the UV damage to your skin can’t be undone. Over time, it all adds up to increase your risk of skin cancer.”
Sunburn was most common among 10-19 year olds and 20-29 year olds, however, cases appear to be steadily increasing for all age groups over the years.
Cancer Council’s National Sun Protection Survey shows approximately 671,000 Victorian adults were sunburnt on weekends during the 2016-17 summer.
‘Preventing sunburn is easy’
However, Ms Walker said “preventing sunburn and reducing your long-term risk of skin cancer is “easy”.
“When you’re outside during sun protection times each day, protect your skin in five ways – cover up with clothing, a hat and sunglasses, use sunscreen and seek shade,” she added.
Victorian Melanoma Service dermatologist Dr Victoria Mar recommended people seek immediate medical attention for severe sunburn where there is extensive blistering and pain, sunburn over a large area of skin, or if they experience headache, nausea and vomiting, fever or dizziness.
“For mild sunburn, stay out of the sun while your skin heals and stay hydrated, apply cool compresses and talk to your doctor or pharmacist for advice on soothing the burn,” Dr Mar said.
“Remember, nothing will cure your sunburn symptoms except for time and patience.
“The best thing to do is to prevent it in the first place. By the time you feel a ‘sting in the sun’, that’s not heat from the sun, it’s your skin burning.”
Ms Walker advised Aussies to check the sun protection times for their location and protect their skin every time they were outdoors during these times, adding the free seeUV app uses augmented reality to show the strength of UV levels around you.
“You spend more time in the sun than you think. UV reaches Extreme levels across Victoria in summer and 11 minutes can be all it takes for unprotected skin to burn,” Ms Walker said.
“No matter if you’re going to be at the beach, at a barbecue or relaxing around the house over the long weekend, it is vital to protect your skin. We want you to enjoy the break – not spend it nursing sunburn.”