Beat the Heat to Stay Healthy this Summer

Spring has been here for several weeks and summer is just around the corner, so prepare for these risks as you work and play outside.

Sun Exposure

About half of all cancers diagnosed this year will be skin cancers.  One of the most important things you can do to protect your skin is use sunscreen. We all know we need to use it, but how much and which one?

Dermatologists recommend a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of at least 30.  An SPF of 15 will screen out 93% of the UVB rays and SPF 30 takes you to 97%.  Adults should apply a generous amount – about an ounce or a palmful to cover the arms, legs, neck, and face.  Sunscreen should also be used when it’s cloudy since the UV rays still reach the ground on overcast days.  Check the expiration date and always shake the bottle before use. Reapply it often, especially if you are sweating or in water.

No sunscreen product offers 100% protection so these other steps are important too…

  • Avoid the sun from mid-morning to late afternoon, if possible.
  • If you are working or playing outside, wear a long-sleeved shirt and a hat with a large brim to shade the face, ears, and back of the neck.   Sun protective clothing is available with UPF (ultraviolet protection factor) scores.  Dark colors protect more than light colors; if you can see light through the fabric than UV rays can get through too.
  • Wear sunglasses that block UV rays.  Your choice doesn’t have to cost a lot but they should block at least 99% of UVA and UVB rays.
  • Check with your dermatologist annually if you are in a high-risk group (fair-haired, light-eyed, with more than 40 moles on your body, or have a family history of skin cancer) and also if you have a change in the appearance of a mole or other skin changes.

Heat Exhaustion

Signs of heat exhaustion include dizziness, headache, confusion, muscle cramps, and nausea. I hope you never have this experience, but I can tell you from experience that it’s scary. I had a mild case a few years ago and went to the emergency room since I was sure something very serious was happening.  While anyone can experience heat exhaustion or heat stroke, people working outside, small children, the elderly, and people on some medications are most vulnerable.   The best way to beat the heat is to:

  • Drink plenty of water even if you don’t feel thirsty.  At least one pint of water per hour is needed.
  • Avoid caffeinated soft drinks and alcohol since these beverages cause dehydration.
  • Wear clothing that is light and loose fitting, including a hat which will help to maintain normal body temperature.
  • Spend more time in air-conditioned places or the shade.  People working outside can’t do that, so pace yourself and cool down in the shade or air conditioning on break.
  • Seek medical attention if you experience heat exhaustion symptoms.

Remember, a few simple steps to protect yourself can lead to a great summer!  Do you have any other suggestions for beating the summer heat?  Please share!

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