The heat’s the only thing that should be SCORCHING
Sun is a great provider of essential vitamin D but, too much at one time, can lead to sunstroke, heat exhaustion and too many UV (ultraviolet) rays, even on days when the sky is overcast.
Babies and children, people with fair skin and hair, and anyone working outside are at particular risk, as is anyone with a family history of skin cancer. With the best intentions, applying sunscreen once a day just isn’t going to offer the right level of protection. Instead there are a number of measures that should be used in combination to avoid long-term skin damage.
A lack of water, excess alcohol, extreme exercise, tight clothing and hot sun simply don’t mix. Children, those with long-term health conditions like diabetes and heart trouble, and the elderly must take particular care with hydration, ensuring they drink enough to help their body to keep itself cool. If not, they could develop heat exhaustion which, whilst usually not serious can, if left longer, turn into heatstroke and need emergency treatment.
If you are with someone who is experiencing a headache, feeling dizzy, confused, nauseous, has clammy skin, cramps, a fast pulse rate and/or a high temperature they could be suffering from heat exhaustion.
Move them to a cool place, lie them down with their feet slightly raised and ensure they drink lots of water, hydration or sports drinks. Fanning them and spraying their skin with cool water will soon have them feeling better. However, if they still feel unwell after half an hour, are still very hot but no longer sweating, have a temperature of more than 40°C, experience a fit, lose consciousness, are short of breath, or are non-responsive, call 15 straight away.
Keep an eye on your skin and note anything new, unusual or which may be changing. A sore which keeps coming back or doesn’t heal, a mole which changes in size, shape or colour, or a mole that itches or bleeds easily should send you straight off for a check-up at the doctors.
The Skin Cancer Organisation (www.skincancer.org) provides images and information on the ABCDE acronym and the Ugly Duckling system for checking moles. It also explains basal cell carcinoma, the most common form of skin cancer, and its rival, Squamous Cell Carcinoma.
Asymmetry: Moles are usually symmetrical
Border: Common moles have smooth borders
Colour: Benign moles are usually one shade of brown
Diameter or Dark: Most moles are about 6mm in diameter. If it’s larger than this or darker than the norm, have it checked. Although rare, some amelanotic melanomas are colourless.
Evolving: Has a mole changed in any of these aspects, is it crusting or bleeding? In addition, look out for the odd one out with:
Ugly Duckling: imagine your moles as a family. They will all look like each other. If one stands out because of its colour, size and shape, that ugly duckling needs to be looked at. It’s important to remember that melanomas can appear anywhere, even in places where the sun has definitely not shone! Check yourself over when in the shower or applying body lotion and perhaps even have an annual appointment with your dermatologist to ensure early detection. With this knowledge at hand, keep safe and enjoy your time in the sun!
I have never tanned easily. I just went red which faded to nothing. I tried sun beds in my early 20s and gained a slight colour but not much. In my early 40s a mole appeared on my shin and grew quickly. It was an irregular shape with a black dot. Pathology confirmed it was a malignant melanoma. Surgery followed when they also removed five other moles, one of which turned out to be a basal cell carcinoma. Interestingly the specialist said that many women develop melanomas on the lower leg. It’s often the part on show, especially when sitting down, even if the rest of the body is in the shade. Several years later a carcinoma was removed from my shoulder, and then a spot became annoying between my nose and top lip. It would appear, itch, bleed and disappear. The dermatologist said it was skin cancer and referred me to a plastic surgeon who used the natural line of my upper lip to gain access and remove it. Since then I have had another two carcinomas removed. Now I avoid the sun, particularly between 12 and 2pm, cover up my arms and legs and use SPF 20 on my face every day. I also have annual checks with a dermatologist.
The moral of the story: if you spot anything different or unusual with your skin, see your doctor or dermatologist straight away. Yes it’s scary but when caught early, skin cancer can be removed before it causes more serious problems.
The reader’s details can be provided upon written request.
First published in the July August 2020 issue of The Local Buzz