Australian Open fans: don't leave home without sun protection

Monday 19 January, 2009

As Melbourne turns on the heat for the start of the Australian Open, tennis spectators are being urged to get SunSmart while enjoying the action on court.

SunSmart Program Manager Sue Heward says sun protection at the tennis is critical as ultraviolet (UV) levels, which can cause skin cancer, are reaching peak levels in Victoria.

"UV radiation is reaching extreme levels at the moment, and it only takes 11 minutes to burn when UV Index levels are this high," she says.

"The slip, slop, slap, seek and slide message is also extremely important for overseas visitors who may not be aware of Australia's extreme UV levels and the damage it can do to the skin and eyes."

Ms Heward says while Australian Open organizers are conscious of the need for sun protection she urged people to leave home well prepared to avoid getting sunburnt.

"Tennis spectators can be out in the sun for long periods of time, so it's vital they plan ahead," she says. "Sunscreen is just one part of keeping your skin safe; a wide brimmed hat, long sleeved clothing and sunglasses are all essential to avoid sunburn.

"Shade is also extremely important and fans should take particular care on the outside courts where shade is more limited."

Ms Heward says people should check the SunSmart UV Alert each day, rather than relying on temperature forecasts.

"The SunSmart UV Alert is issued when the UV Index is forecast to reach 3 and above - the level that can cause sunburn and skin damage," she says. "UV levels are now reaching 12, so if you're out and about during the day, sun protection is vital.

"It is still possible to get sunburnt even if the weather does cool down during the tournament. At this time of year, UV Index levels are likely to be high on mild or cloudy days, which is why many people are surprised if they get sunburnt."

The SunSmart UV Alert is in the weather section of daily newspapers and on the Bureau of Meteorology website at www.bom.gov.au/weather/uv. Live UV levels for Melbourne are also available at www.arpansa.gov.au/uvindex/realtime/index.cfm.

SunSmart tips for sunburn-free tennis

It only takes five minutes to take five steps to keep your skin safe:

  1. Slip on some sun-protective clothing - that covers as much skin as possible such as collared shirts and at least three-quarter-length trousers and tops.
  2. Slop on SPF30+ broad spectrum sunscreen 20 minutes before you head out and make sure to take a bottle or tube with you so you can re-apply every two hours.
  3. Slap on a hat - a wide brimmed hat will protect your face, head, neck and ears. Baseball caps do not provide enough coverage.
  4. Seek shade, especially when UV levels peak in the middle of the day.
  5. Slide on some sunglasses - make sure they meet Australian Standards, are close-fitting, wrap around and cover as much of the eye area as possible.

And remember:

  • Use a generous amount of sunscreen. The average-sized adult should apply at least a teaspoon of sunscreen to each arm, leg, front of body and back of body and at least ½ teaspoon to the face (including the ears and neck). That is, 35 ml of sunscreen for one full body application.
  • Apply sunscreen 20 minutes before you go outside. Regardless of the instructions on the bottle, if outdoors, reapply sunscreen every two hours. Sunscreen can be easily wiped or perspired off and reapplication is necessary to maintain an adequate level of protection.

For further information on sun protection and skin cancer visit www.sunsmart.com.au or call Cancer Council Helpline on 13 11 20.


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