Temi ambientali
Servizio Sanitario Regionale
Arpae Emilia-Romagna
English version
Ti trovi in : Arpae / Balneazione / Utilità / ABC del turista /

ABC for tourists

Some advice to help you enjoy a pleasant holiday in the sun, without running any risk!

  Ten golden rules of good parenting      Ten rules to enjoy a holiday without risks

The last decades have been marked by a noticeable change in the habits of the entire population. One growing fashion is related to sunbathing, often excessively and without adequate protection. This is mainly true on holiday and during leisure time, when the aim is to get a sun tan, which is considered a sign of physical well being.

We all know that lying in the sun is very enjoyable, but we should remember that sunlight also contains harmful rays, the so-called ultraviolet rays, which can cause dangerous skin diseases.

The effects of excessive exposure to the sun can be listed under two different categories:

ACUTE DAMAGE appears immediately after exposure, in the form of sunburn. It generally disappears after a few days. It is characterised by peeling skin, particularly in the more sensitive areas such as the chest and breast area, the nose, the ears and the shoulders.

CHRONIC DAMAGE becomes evident only after several years. It consists in a change in the derma (which is responsible for causing wrinkles) or in cell DNA (which is a possible cause of the onset of skin cancer).


Which skin type do you have?

It is common knowledge that not everyone tans in the same way or in the same amount of time. Consequently, not everyone runs the same risks of burning when exposing themselves to the sun. In fact, this depends on the skin´s ability to produce melanin (a substance that is capable of protecting the skin from the damage caused by solar harmful rays and that is stimulated by the sun´s rays) and therefore, of being more or less sensitive to the sun. Everyone should recognise themselves in one of the "phototypes" listed in the following chart.

Chart 1 - Skin type and relevant reaction to the sun

Skin Phototype

Typical features

Skin´s reaction


Pale-white skin, red/blond hair, blue/hazel eyes

Always burns, does not tan


Babies in the first year or fair skin, blond hair,  blue eyes

Burns easily, tans poorly


Darker skin, brown hair, dark eyes

Usually tans, sometimes burns


Brown skin, dark hair, dark eyes

Never burns, tans darkly easily



It is above all phototypes A and B that are most prone to sun damage. Furthermore, children and the elderly are more sensitive than adults to the harmful effects of ultraviolet rays.

The best remedy to enjoy the pleasure of lying in the sun avoiding any health risks is gradual exposure to the sun´s rays, in particular in the first days, and avoiding prolonged exposure. The most sensitive skin types should follow these indications even more closely.


Can exposure to the sun be harmful in any other way?

Ultraviolet rays can also damage the eyes, causing conjunctivitis and, over time, even cataract. Sunglasses block up to 100% of type B ultraviolet rays (UVB) but it is essential that when purchasing glasses you check that they really provide appropriate protection. Wearing a wide brimmed hat may also be useful to prevent direct radiation to the eyes.


What precautions should I take?

  • Avoid excessive exposure to the sun and avoid burning (pay particular attention to children!)
  • Expose yourself to the sun gradually.
  • Don´t sunbathe in the middle of the day (even if it is overcast, because the sun´s ultraviolet rays still filter through the clouds).
  • Protect yourself from the sun with sunglasses, hats with visors and clothes.
  • Use protective sun creams with both UVA and UVB filters and make sure you re-apply them often (the long-term protection provided by sun creams has yet to be proven, so using them should not be a excuse for lying out in the sun for longer).