Sunburn warning for Australia Day

Brighton beach showing bathing boxes, Melbourne

More than 200 sunburn cases were treated by Victorian emergency departments in a single year, prompting warnings to use sun protection ahead of Australia Day tomorrow.

Data from the Victorian Emergency Minimum Dataset shows public emergency departments treated 224 cases of sunburn between 1 July 2015 and 30 June 2016.

In 212 cases, sunburn was the recorded reason for attending. Unsurprisingly, summer was the peak season for sunburns, with 81 presentations to emergency in January alone.

The figures show that 57% of sunburnt patients were male and 72% were under 30 years of age. The worst affected were Victorians aged 20-29 years, who accounted for almost one-third (31%) of all sunburn cases.

SunSmart Manager Heather Walker says the data is alarming.

“Almost all of these cases could have been avoided by using good sun protection measures,” Ms Walker says.

“It’s extremely concerning that some people are getting sunburnt so badly they need emergency care. Sunburn isn’t just painful – it’s a sign UV rays have damaged your skin. The sunburn might fade but the UV damage remains, and increases your risk of skin cancer.”

Emergency departments assessed 11% of cases as urgent, while the majority of presentations were semi-urgent (58%) or non-urgent (29%).

According to Cancer Council’s National Sun Protection Survey, the most common reason Australians gave for their summer sunburn was staying out in the sun too long.

Other common reasons given were forgetting about sun protection or thinking it wasn’t required, sunscreen application mistakes, deliberately not wearing sun protection and attempting to suntan.

Ms Walker urged Victorians to keep sun protection top-of-mind this Australia Day.

“Many of us will be taking advantage of the holiday by spending time outdoors. However at this time, UV levels will be Extreme and unprotected skin could burn in as little as 11 minutes.

“Whether you’re in the backyard having a barbecue with friends or heading to the coast, you need to protect your skin in five ways. That means covering up with clothing, sunscreen, a broad-brimmed hat, shade and sunglasses.”

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