The sun is of vital importance to gardeners, and indeed our own health. However like all good things, excessive exposure can be potentially dangerous.

Excessive exposure to the sun can lead not only to damage of the skin but also skin cancer (melanoma and carcinoma) which may lead to death.

The cancer council recommends a few ways to reduce risk by a combination of 5 steps. These are Slip, Slop, Slap, Seek & Slide.

  • Slip on a shirt
  • Slop on some broad spectrum, water resistant SPF30+ sunscreen. Don’t forget to reapply every few hours
  • Slap on a Hat, broad brim is best
  • Seek some shade
  • Slide on some sunglasses

The cancer council also notes that you should think carefully about the time of day spent in the sun. Between 10am and 3pm is when UV levels reach their peak and it is best to avoid this if possible. Useful information about UV levels can be obtained from the Bureau of Meteorology, Sun and UV protection time’s webpage.

The cancer council also recommends that you undertake regular dermatological check-ups of your skin and seek medical advice on any irregular or changing lesions.

For more information speak with a medical professional or the following websites may be of use.

Excessive exposure to the sun and high temperatures can also lead to heat illness. Some of the conditions of heat illness include the following; heat rash, heat cramps, heat exhaustion and most seriously heat stroke.

Heat rash or prickly heat is a painful itchy and irritating inflammation of the skin and is likely to be found on the neck, upper chest, and the groin. It is caused by the blocking of seat ducks after excessive sweating.

Heat cramps include muscle spasms in the arms legs and abdomen, and occur due to depletion of salt and water after strenuous activity in hot conditions.

Heat exhaustion is a condition that occurs when blood volume is reduced after excessive sweating. Symptoms of heat exhaustion include sweating, paleness, muscle cramps, palpitations, nausea, vomiting headaches, dizziness and fainting. Heat exhaustion is a serious and should be treated with first aid, if left untreated it can lead to the serious condition of heat stroke.

Heat stroke is a very serious condition which may quickly lead to death. Symptoms include delirium, coma and seizures and unconsciousness in addition to the symptoms of heat exhaustion. Another symptom that may also be present is the absence of sweat and a dry skin. Heat stroke occurs when the body’s core temperature rises above 40.5OC. As this happens the body begins to shut down and damage to internal organs will start to occur and this will most likely lead to death if not treated.

To prevent heat illness you should be aware of the signs and symptoms of heat illness, avoid strenuous physical work in the heat of the day, make sure you keep yourself well hydrated and take regular breaks during physical work, especially if you are not accustomed to it.   Sun smart clothing such as hats and light coloured loose clothing will also assist in keeping you cool.

If you or someone you find is suffering from heat exhaustion apply first aid and seek medical assistance or in the case of heat stroke apply first aid and call triple 0.

For further information the following websites may be of use.

Disclaimer: Further advice should also be sought from your local health care professional.