Here Comes the Sun: How to Stay Safe During the Lancaster Heatwave


In recent weeks, Lancaster has shocked students with a glorious heatwave, blessing exam season with rays of promise. However, many students have found themselves sunburnt, gradually increasing the risk of serious skin conditions.


Somehow, June has already rolled around, and Lancaster is giving off impeccable summer vibes. This week, temperatures have sky-rocketed up to twenty degrees Celsius, with the UV index reaching as high as eight. The ice-creams are out in Alexandra Square, sunbathers stretch out on the lawns, and those finished with exams lounge with a refreshing pint and a game of pool at the campus bars.

However, it’s easy to forget that, although England is usually rain-HQ, the sun is still incredibly powerful and presents significant risk. In 2019, the NHS reported 3000 people admitted to hospital with heat-related illnesses, including 632 with severe sunburn, 100 cases of heat exhaustion, and 223 cases of sun- and heat stroke. Sunburn also significantly increases the chances of skin cancer.

Further, spending more time outdoors increases the risk of allergies, with 3000 people admitted to hospitals with allergies to pollen, and 5700 patients reacting to insect stings and bites.

Accustomed to the rubbish Lancaster weather, we can be fooled too easily into carelessness in the sunshine. We’ve all seen the Squashies’ tan lines – we’ve all been there! Young people in particular are more susceptible to sunburn, or worse, sunstroke. So, here’s your wake-up call – take care of yourself in the sun! So here’s a guide on how to look after yourself this summer.

Always have a summer survival kit in your bag:

Going out to Williamson Park or the lakes? It’s time to take on the role of your mother and cram your bag with endless summer essentials to tackle any sunshine fiasco:

  • Sun cream, to keep applying intermittently throughout the day.
  •  Apply aloe vera gel to burnt skin.
  •  A natural ingredient-based, DEET-free insect repellent – the best ones usually contain citronella, lemongrass, or eucalyptus.
  •  Any anti-allergy medication you may need: anti-histamines, an EpiPen, bite, and sting relief cream.
  •  An extra, thin layer of clothing, to put on if your skin feels too sensitive to take any more sun.
  •  Plenty of food and water.

Use sun-cream as a body-lotion substitute:

Breakfast? Check. Shower? Check. Sun-cream? Sounds annoying, but applying sunscreen to your whole body before dressing every morning means your skin will build that barrier before your day’s even begun. It also means that by the time you get outside, it will have sunk in enough for your skin to still soak up the vital vitamin D. Try including skin protection into your morning self-care routine, and soon it’ll become a healthy habit! Your skin will thank you for years and years to come.

Extra tip: make sure your face moisturiser has SPF in it – it should say on the front of the packaging!

Limited exposure:

Of course, sitting in the shade will do wonders to protect your skin; we recommend sitting in the sun for limited periods, but it can also be a party pooper. Instead, why not buy a sunhat, to stop your face from burning? It’s the best way to prevent sunburn and dandruff and shield your eyes without getting sunglass tan lines. Baggy, thin fabric clothing is also a big yes, to stay cool and gently expose your skin to sunlight. The charity shops in Lancaster are packed with summer clothing right now; so, style up! The hat-hair is a sacrifice, but don’t worry: everyone’s far too concentrated on their exams to judge right now.

Stay hydrated:

This one speaks for itself! The NHS labels dehydration as one of the primary dangers of a heatwave. Drinking cold drinks is essential to preventing heatstroke or heat exhaustion, by keeping the body temperature down, particularly if you’re playing sports, or partaking in physical activities that make you sweat.

The NHS advises against drinking alcohol in the sun, as the combination can cause severe dehydration; but as a student population, we’ll probably take our chances!

So, whether it’s a fifteen-minute revision break or a day trip in the great outdoors, take extra caution in the sunshine this summer.

NHS advice: seek immediate medical attention if, after sun exposure, you are suffering from:

  • Blistered, swollen or hot skin that isn’t sweating
  • A high temperature, with shivers
  • Dizziness, tiredness and sickness
  • A headache, or muscle cramps
  • A fast heartbeat
  • Fast breathing, or shortness of breath
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