WHETHER you’re jetting off somewhere exotic or taking a picnic to the park, enjoy your time off this summer.

It looks set to be a scorcher, with bookies slashing the odds that 2019 will be the hottest since records began.

Before you get too excited about sunbathing though, remember that sun damage to your skin is the leading cause of skin cancer.

It’s a myth that tans are a sign of being healthy or protect you from the sun’s harmful effects - whilst you might like the way they look, there’s really no safe way to get one. The recommended minimum sunscreen is factor 15, but if you’re an English Rose like me you’ll need to go much higher. A minimum SPF of 30 is a probably a good place to start.

Skin cancers are on the rise for everyone, but they’re rising much faster for men. This is partly because men are less likely to use sunscreen (apparently we don’t listen), but in our defence a lot of predominantly male jobs are also outdoors, like construction and landscaping.

Covering up and using sunscreen could save you from painful or even life-threatening conditions in the future. A long-sleeved T-shirt and a hat can make a huge difference for your skin and it might stop you needing things chopped off or biopsied when you get older.

Sunscreens usually have an expiry date of two or three years, after which they won’t be as effective, but the active ingredients will start to degrade faster once the bottle has been opened. To be safe, it’s best to throw out the old bottle and get a new one each year.

Heatstroke can be very serious and things like medication or a few too many drinks can make you more susceptible to it. Wearing a hat and staying in the shade are always good ways to prevent sunstroke or heat exhaustion.

If you develop a headache, feel dizzy, confused or sick, get out of the sun immediately.

Drink plenty of cold water and lie down in a cool place with a cold wet flannel on your forehead.

If you’re not getting better after 30 minutes or you start to feel worse call NHS 111 for advice.

If you’re going abroad this year, make sure you have the right vaccinations for where you’re going. You can find out what you need on the NHS website or ask your GP.

Don’t forget to get some travel insurance in case the worst happens, medical care costs a fortune abroad.

Have a great summer!

Dr Jeff Stoker is a local GP at the Bermuda and Marlowe Practice in Basingstoke, with over 20 years’ experience in the NHS.