Take care in the summer sunshine

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Summer is on its way at last – and health experts are reminding people to take care while enjoying the sunshine. Local hospitals and health services see a number of patients every year who have become ill due to summer sun and warmer weather.

Dr Mike Prentice, medical director for NHS England’s Cumbria, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear area team, said: “It’s great to get out and enjoy the warmer weather, but a few simple precautions can protect your health in the sun. With the English weather, it’s easy to forget that strong sun and high temperatures can make you unwell.

“Over-exposure to the sun can lead to sunburn, dehydration and heatstroke, and increase the risk of skin cancer, so it’s important to enjoy the summer safely. It’s also important to keep hydrated by drinking plenty of water, and avoid drinking too much alcohol as this can cause dehydration in the hot weather.”

He added: “We want people to enjoy the sun without becoming unwell – but if you do get ill, be sure to use the most appropriate NHS service. Remember that 999 and A&E services are only for seriously ill people and life threatening emergencies. Your local pharmacist can help if you overdo the sun and get sunburn or a rash.”

Heat affects some people more seriously than others. Older people, babies and young children, pregnant women, people doing manual work outdoors and those with chronic conditions like diabetes and heart problems should take particular care.

Dr Roberta Marshall, director of the North East Public Health England Centre, said: “It’s important to remember that you don’t have to be abroad to suffer from the sun. Older people and young children should take particular care in the sun, but anyone who doesn’t take proper sun-safety measures can be at risk.

“Around 7,000 new cases of malignant melanoma (skin cancer) are recorded each year in the UK and over 1,000 die from the disease.”

Summer activities can also lead to health risks, said Dr Marshall:

“Most outdoor activities are good for your health – but it’s worth following a few precautions to avoid problems. Over the summer the NHS can see more sports injuries, food poisoning from barbecues and alcohol-related accidents.

“Warmer weather brings an increase in food poisoning cases, but careful storing, handling and cooking of food can reduce the risk. Thorough cooking and clean hands are the best way to avoid food bugs.”

Local pharmacies can give advice on common illnesses and provide guidance on the most appropriate way to treat them. NHS 111 can give fast, reliable telephone advice and arrange for patients see an out of hours GP if necessary. For persistent illnesses, people should make an appointment to see their GP.

Patients are also encouraged to visit the NHS Choices<http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Pages/hub.aspx> website for advice on treating common conditions.

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