a) Ask students to share times when they have been sunburnt: what happened and why.
b) Talk about why it’s important to avoid sunburn (the potential consequences) and how different skin types are affected by the sun.
The key information is:
- Sunburn in the short term leads to red, sore and itchy skin
- Severe sunburn can cause blistering and swelling of the skin plus heat exhaustion and sickness
- The long term effects of sunburn include scaly spots on the skins (keratosis), melanoma (skin cancer) and eye problems
Sunburn affects the body as follows:
- The body’s natural defence mechanisms react to UV damage to the skin. This causes the redness, soreness etc.
- UV photons can damage the DNA in our cells
- Too much radiation essentially destroys cells – this why dead cells come off as our skin peels
- Some sun-damaged cells can mutate and go on to multiply causing aggressive skin cancers
- Sunburn in childhood increases the risk of cancers in later life
c) Discuss the different options for sun protection: sun cream, covering up and staying in the shade.
d) Briefly ask how sunglasses can also protect us from the sun. Here are the key point to stress:
- UV can cause damage to our eyes
- Eyes are up to ten times more sensitive to UV rays than skin
- Children’s eyes are especially vulnerable to UV damage
- Not all sunglasses offer the same UV protection (for example darker tints does not mean greater UV defence).
This might be a good opportunity to show the short film accompanying this resource. It features two teenagers finding out about the science of sun care to help them plan a camping trip.