A groups of friends enjoy the sun on a boat.

Stay Safe in the Sun: Essential Tips for Holiday Travellers

  • 19th June 2024
  • 12 min read

Holidays are a time for relaxation and fun, often spent basking in the warmth of the sun. Whether you're lounging on a tropical beach, hiking through a sun-drenched trail, or exploring a vibrant city, the sunny weather enhances the joy of your adventures. However, while enjoying the sun’s rays, it’s crucial to remember that prolonged exposure can pose significant health risks. The sun's ultraviolet (UV) rays can damage your skin, leading to sunburn, and, over time, increase the risk of skin cancer. Additionally, excessive heat can cause dehydration, heat exhaustion, and even sunstroke, which can be life-threatening if not addressed promptly.

For frequent travellers, family vacationers, and travelling Canadians, understanding, and practising sun safety is essential to avoid these dangers. Proper sun protection involves more than just applying sunscreen; it includes wearing protective clothing, seeking shade during peak sun hours, and staying hydrated.

In this blog post, we will explore these precautionary measures in detail, providing practical tips and advice to help you stay safe in the sun. By following these guidelines, you can ensure your holidays remain enjoyable, healthy, and worry-free, allowing you to fully embrace the joys of your sunny adventures.

Understanding the Risks: Sunburn, Heat Exhaustion, and Sunstroke

Before diving into prevention tips, it’s important to understand the risks associated with excessive sun exposure.


Sunburn occurs when your skin is exposed to the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays for too long, causing redness, pain, and sometimes blisters. The severity of sunburn can vary from mild discomfort to intense pain, and in extreme cases, it can result in swelling and fluid-filled blisters.

Severe sunburn not only leads to more serious skin damage, such as premature aging and sunspots, but it also increases the risk of developing skin cancer. It's crucial to protect your skin by wearing sunscreen, seeking shade, and wearing protective clothing to minimize UV exposure.

Heat Exhaustion

Heat exhaustion is a condition resulting from excessive heat and dehydration, often occurring during prolonged exposure to high temperatures or strenuous physical activity. Symptoms include heavy sweating, weakness, dizziness, nausea, and headaches.

The skin may feel cool and moist, and the affected person might experience muscle cramps and an increased heart rate. If left untreated, heat exhaustion can escalate to heat stroke, a severe and potentially life-threatening condition that requires immediate medical attention. Recognizing the signs early and taking steps to cool down and rehydrate can prevent the situation from worsening.

Sunstroke (Heat Stroke)

Sunstroke is a severe condition that occurs when the body overheats due to prolonged exposure to high temperatures. This can happen during heatwaves, strenuous physical activity in hot weather, or simply from staying under the sun for too long without protection. Symptoms include confusion, a rapid pulse, high body temperature, flushed skin, headache, dizziness, nausea, and loss of consciousness.

If left untreated, it can lead to serious complications such as organ failure or even death. Sunstroke is a medical emergency and requires immediate attention, including moving the person to a cooler place, hydrating them, and seeking professional medical help urgently.

A lady applies sun cream whilst sun bathing by the pool.

Preparing for Your Trip: Choosing the Right Clothing and Sunscreen

Preparation is key to preventing sun-related health issues. Here’s how to gear up for sun safety:


Lightweight and Breathable Fabrics: Opt for light-coloured, loose-fitting clothing made from breathable fabrics like cotton and linen, which allow air circulation and reduce heat retention. These materials are ideal for staying cool in hot weather, as they wick away moisture and prevent overheating. Additionally, choosing garments with UV protection can help shield your skin from harmful sun rays.

Wide-Brimmed Hats: Protect your face, neck, and ears from direct sunlight with a wide-brimmed hat. This type of hat provides ample shade and reduces the risk of sunburn and long-term skin damage, ensuring you stay safe and comfortable while enjoying the outdoors.

Sunglasses: Choose sunglasses with UV protection to shield your eyes from harmful rays. UV protection is essential for preventing potential eye damage, such as cataracts and macular degeneration, especially during extended periods of sun exposure. Make sure to select a pair that offers 100% UV coverage for optimal safety and comfort.


Broad-Spectrum Sunscreen: Select a sunscreen that offers broad-spectrum protection against both UVA and UVB rays to ensure comprehensive skin protection. UVA rays can cause premature ageing and wrinkles, while UVB rays are responsible for sunburn and can contribute to skin cancer. Choosing a sunscreen with this dual protection helps safeguard your skin from a wide range of harmful effects.

SPF 30 or Higher: Use sunscreen with a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of at least 30 to protect your skin from harmful UV rays. Apply it generously on all exposed areas of the skin - don't forget your ears, neck, and the tops of your feet.

Water-Resistant: If you plan to swim, are sweating, or engage in any activities that involve water, it's crucial to opt for water-resistant sunscreen. This type of sunscreen ensures that your skin remains protected even when exposed to moisture, providing a longer-lasting shield against harmful UV rays.

Reapplication: Apply sunscreen generously 15 minutes before sun exposure to ensure your skin has adequate protection. Reapply every two hours to maintain effectiveness, or more frequently if you are swimming, sweating, or towelling off.

A bottle of water in the sand at the beach

Staying Safe Under the Sun: Tips for Hydration and Shade

When out in the sun, taking proactive steps can help keep you safe:


Drink Plenty of Water: Dehydration is a major risk factor for heat exhaustion and sunstroke, which can lead to serious health issues if not addressed promptly. To prevent these conditions, it's crucial to drink water regularly, even if you do not feel thirsty. Staying hydrated helps regulate your body temperature and maintain essential bodily functions, ensuring you stay healthy and active, especially in hot weather conditions.

Electrolyte Drinks: Consider drinks with electrolytes for replenishing lost salts and minerals, especially after intense workouts or prolonged physical activity. These beverages help maintain proper hydration levels and support muscle function, ensuring you recover effectively.


Seek Shade During Peak Hours: The sun’s rays are strongest between 12 p.m. and 3 p.m., making this period the most intense for UV exposure. It's crucial to protect your skin during these peak hours to reduce the risk of sunburn and long-term damage. Try to stay in shaded areas, wear protective clothing, and apply sunscreen to safeguard your health.

Use Umbrellas and Canopies: When spending time outdoors, especially on the beach, it's important to protect yourself from the sun's harmful rays. Use umbrellas or canopies to create shaded areas where you can relax and stay cool. This not only helps prevent sunburn but also reduces the risk of heat exhaustion and dehydration.

A Cabana By The Beach giving much needed shade.

Recognising the Signs: How to Identify Sun-Related Health Issues

Early identification of sun-related health problems can prevent serious complications. Be aware of the following symptoms:


Redness and pain on the skin, are often accompanied by swelling and a warm sensation. This can indicate inflammation or irritation that may require attention.

Swelling and blistering in severe cases, may lead to discomfort and require medical attention for proper treatment and healing.

Peeling skin after a few days, usually because of sunburn or other skin irritation, can lead to dryness and discomfort.

Heat Exhaustion

Heavy sweating accompanied by cold, clammy skin, often leaves you feeling uncomfortable and chilled.

Weakness, dizziness, and fainting can occur suddenly and may be accompanied by a feeling of light-headedness or a loss of balance.

Nausea or vomiting may arise due to heat exhaustion. To mitigate this, ensure you stay well-hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids.

Rapid breathing and pulse can also occur when suffering from heat exhaustion, as the body struggles to cool itself down.

Sunstroke (Heat Stroke)

Elevated body temperature (40°C/104°F or higher), is often accompanied by sweating, chills, and a sense of weakness or fatigue.

Hot, dry skin without sweating, signalling a potential heat-related illness requiring immediate medical attention.

Rapid, strong pulse felt in the neck or wrist, indicating increased heart activity or bodily stress.

Confusion or loss of consciousness, which may include disorientation, difficulty remembering recent events, or complete blackout.

First Aid and Aftercare: What to Do If You or Someone Else is Affected

If you or someone you’re with experiences sun-related health issues, quick and effective first aid is crucial:


Cool the Skin: Apply cool, damp cloths to the affected areas to soothe your skin and reduce inflammation. Alternatively, you can take a cool bath to help lower your body temperature and provide relief to the irritated spots.

Moisturise: Use aloe vera or moisturizers to soothe and hydrate the skin. Aloe vera is known for its healing properties and can help reduce inflammation and redness. Moisturizers, on the other hand, provide essential hydration, helping to maintain the skin's natural barrier and prevent dryness.

Stay Hydrated: Drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration, especially during hot weather or intense physical activity. Staying well-hydrated supports your overall health helps maintain energy levels, and ensures your body functions optimally.

Keep Sunburnt Skin Protected: When skin is sunburned, it becomes more vulnerable to additional harm. To prevent this, cover the affected areas with loose clothing to avoid irritating the painful spots.

Heat Exhaustion

Move to a Cooler Area: Get out of the sun and into a shaded or air-conditioned place to avoid heat exhaustion. Seek refuge under a tree, an umbrella, or indoors where you can cool down and stay hydrated. Protect yourself from the intense heat and enjoy a more comfortable environment.

Hydrate: Drink water or electrolyte-rich sports drinks to stay hydrated. These beverages help replenish fluids lost through sweating and can improve overall recovery.

Cool Down: Use cold compresses on your forehead, such as ice packs or chilled towels, to reduce body temperature. Alternatively, use fans to circulate air and create a cooling effect, or take a cool shower to help lower your body temperature and feel refreshed.

Sunstroke (Heat Stroke)

Call Emergency Services: If you suspect that you or a travel companion has sunstroke, it is crucial to seek assistance from emergency services. Sunstroke is a medical emergency, so call the local emergency number immediately.

Cool the Person: Move them to a cooler place, such as a shaded area or an air-conditioned room. Use any available means to lower their body temperature, such as applying cold packs, using cool water, or fanning them gently. Ensure they are comfortable and monitor their condition closely.

Stay with the Person: Stay with the affected individual until help arrives, monitoring their breathing and responsiveness. Keep talking to them to ensure they remain conscious and try to keep them calm. If possible, provide any necessary first aid while waiting for professional assistance.

Holidays should be a time of joy, relaxation, and making memories—not dealing with the aftermath of sun exposure. By understanding the risks and taking precautionary measures, you can ensure your trips are safe and enjoyable. Remember, sun safety is not just about preventing sunburn; it’s about protecting your overall health and well-being.

Whether you're a frequent traveller, a family vacationer, or a travelling Canadian, these tips will help you stay safe in the sun. Enjoy your holiday responsibly and make the most of your sunny adventures!

For more tips and travel advice, be sure to check out our blog and guides and stay updated with the latest in travel safety and wellness.

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Tommy Lloyd
Author: Tommy Lloyd, Managing Director

Tommy has over 15 years experience within the insurance industry, having worked with some of the worlds largest insurers. Tommy’s primary focus has been developing the best possible online experience for travellers looking to compare travel insurance rates. Music and travel are two of Tommy's greatest interests, and even better when he can combine the two together!


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