The promise of more hot weather to come means thousands of families will flock to the South Coast this summer.

With less than month to go before the summer holidays start, Siobhan Ryan looks at how parents can ensure their children and themselves don't fall prey to the weather There is nothing better than relaxing day on the beach on a hot and sunny day, especially if there is slight breeze coming in from the sea.

Thousands will be week-ending at coastal resorts across Sussex, relaxing and enjoying the sunshine. Unfortunately, our hospitals will also be treating severe cases sunburn and heatstroke as holidaymakers forget to take right precautions.

The sun can cause first and second-degree burns. Children are especially vulnerable to sunburn which take only a short time to strike. Fair hair and skin can heighten susceptibility to sunburn but even dark and black skin can burn and should be protected.

In fact, health experts say there is no such thing as "healthy" tan. Skin cancer usually appears in adulthood it is caused by sun exposure and sunburns that occurred in childhood.

Malignant melanoma is the most deadly type of skin cancer and, once established, of the fastest-growing. But you can prevent it by protecting your child's skin from the sun's harmful rays.

According to the Cancer Research Campaign, it is the most rapidly increasing form cancer. Recent research has shown a doubling in the number of new cases in the past 15 years.

Melanoma is one of the few cancers to affect the young among 20 to 34-year-olds and is the third-most-common cancer in women and the fourth in men.

Only early detection and treatment can save lives. Experts advise watching for moles on the skin. Mary Phillips from the Cancer Research Campaign Sussex said: "Parents have generally got the message about making sure their children are protected but not taking the same care themselves.

"We can't stress enough the importance of keeping the skin protected. Tanning is not good for the skin and, if it goes for too long, there is a much-increased chance of developing cancer."

Heatstroke is the most severe form of heat illness and can be immediately life-threatening.

Vigorous physical activity in hot weather or overdressing are two of the factors that can increase the risk of heatstroke.

Parents should call for emergency medical help if their child shows one or more of these symptoms: headache, dizziness, weakness, disorientation, agitation, fatigue, hot, dry skin, a temperature of 105 degrees fahrenheit or higher.

While waiting for help, the child should be put indoors or into the shade, undressed and sponged or doused with cool water.

Joy Twigg also recognises the importance of keeping children out of the sun. Joy, who runs Klassy Kids clothes shop in Hove, regularly donates children's sunhats to local hospitals and playgroups.

She said: "Children are often given the chance to play outside but, if the weather is very hot, they are at risk from the sun.

"By providing sunhats, we are making sure that they are being protected as much as possible."

If you intend spending a long time in the sun, it is vital to choose a good quality sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) that is high enough to protect your skin type.

For example, if you have fair skin and haven't sat in the sun for a few months, use a sunscreen with an SPF of 35 to 50.

All sun protection factors are based on how long it takes for unprotected skin to burn (the average length of time is ten minutes).

The higher the SPF, the greater the protection provided by the sunscreen.

For example, if you use SPF 15, the protection will last for about two to three hours (10 minutes x 15 = 150 minutes).

But the SPF is only a rough guide so care and attention should be given the skin type, the strength of the sun's rays and the time of day.

The sun's rays are strongest between 10am and 2pm and reflection of water, sand or snow can intensify them.

For more information, contact The Cancer Research Campaign on 0800 226237.