Check your UV exposure

A sunny day can help to boost your mood, but spending time in the sun can be risky if you don't take the proper precautions. While small amounts of sunlight are good for your health, too much sun exposure can lead to serious long-term consequences, including skin cancer and damage to your eyes.

Find out more about the sun's effects on your body, and learn the simple steps you can take to help protect yourself from its more damaging effects.

Check the current UV index where you are

This data has been compiled based on several sources, including the UK-AIR website, which provides information on air quality and UV levels across the country on behalf of the UK Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs. This is one of the only organisations in the UK keeping records of UV data, so is a valuable source of information on just how much sun we're exposed to on a daily basis.

So, what exactly is the UV index, and what do these levels mean for your health?

The UV index:

What it is and why it matters

Be sun aware on holiday

If you're going on holiday abroad, remember that the UV index may be much higher than it is in the UK, even during the cooler months. In some locations, you could be exposed to almost as high a level of UV rays in a single day as you would in a fortnight back home!

This is why it’s particularly important to check the UV index when travelling abroad and remember to protect your skin accordingly. Studies show that even a short period of sunbathing on holiday can increase your risk of melanoma. What's more, it’s thought that the rising rate of skin cancer in Europe and North America is due to the growing popularity of sun holidays and outdoor activities.

The infographic below lists the average UV index in a number of popular British holiday destinations to show just how dramatic the change in sun exposure can be, as well as some interesting facts about UV levels and how you can protect yourself.

stay safe in the sun inforgraphic

Click on the image to open a larger version.

Sun safety tips for home and on holiday

There are many ways you can reduce your exposure to the sun and protect your skin from UV rays. Here are your sun protection basics:

  • Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen (one that protects from both UVA and UVB rays) with an SPF (sun protection factor) of at least 30 on all areas of exposed skin every day, even if it's cloudy or you're mostly indoors. Remember that UV rays can penetrate clouds and windows.
  • Use a higher SPF if you're going to be outdoors for longer periods of time. Apply generously, and remember to reapply frequently (at least every two hours), especially if you've been swimming or sweating.
  • Go indoors or seek out shade between 11am and 3pm, when the sun's rays are strongest. A good rule of thumb is to watch your shadow: when it’s shorter than your height, get out of the sun.
  • Wear a hat with a broad brim to help protect your face, neck and ears, and cover your arms and legs with a long-sleeved top, trousers or a long skirt. Remember that fabric with a tighter weave offers more protection than a looser weave. You can tell how much sun is getting through by holding the fabric up to the light.
  • Protect your eyes with sunglasses that offer full UV protection. In the UK, this means they should display a UV 400 label; the British Standard or CE mark (BS EN 1836: 2005); or a label that says they provide 100% UV protection.
  • Babies and children have very sensitive skin, so it's important to make sure they're well covered. Use a sunscreen with a high SPF and make sure they're protected with a hat, sunglasses and the appropriate clothing.
  • Remember that a tan (from the sun or a sunbed) does not protect your skin from the sun; in fact, it’s a sign that damage has already occurred. If you prefer to have darker skin, a fake tan is a safer option, but remember that it does not provide sun protection either.

For more information on how the sun affects your health and how you can protect yourself against skin cancer, visit Bupa's skin cancer fact sheet.

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Bupa Dermatology Services are provided by Bupa Occupational Health Limited. Registered in England and Wales No. 631336. Registered office: 1 Angel Court, London, EC2R 7HJ.