Here are some tips and guidelines to keep in mind to stay safe and healthy during these hot summer months.
With much of the country already experiencing summer heat waves, it’s a good time for a refresher on protecting yourself and family when the temperatures rise.
Dehydration and Heat Exhaustion:
Dehydration occurs when the amount of water leaving the body is greater than the amount being taken in. The body can lose significant amounts of water when it tries to cool itself by sweating, and that water needs to be replaced. For example, in the heat, a brisk walk may generate up to 16 ounces of sweat (a pound of water) to allow body cooling, so you need to boost your fluid intake by that amount to offset it.
To prevent dehydration, avoid activities during the heat of the day (usually between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m.), and seek shade when hot. Most importantly, drink adequate water or liquids throughout the day. Popsicles, watery fruit (such as watermelon) and clear broths also can also supply fluids.
Symptoms of dehydration include dry mouth, inability to make tears or sweat, muscle cramps, nausea or vomiting, lightheadedness, weakness, heart palpitations and decreased urine output. If symptoms have already started, drink frequent small amounts of (preferably clear) liquids.
Dehydration can lead to heat exhaustion, heat sickness and heat stroke. In severe cases, these can cause organ failure, seizures and coma. Medical attention is necessary for acute symptoms.
Sunburn and Sun Poisoning:
Sunburn is an inflammation of the skin caused by overexposure to UV radiation from the sun.
The best way to prevent sunburn is to avoid long exposure to sunlight, especially during peak hours (between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m.). When outdoors, wear wide-brimmed hats, sun-protective clothing, and sunscreen. Apply sunscreen 15 to 30 minutes before expected sun exposure, apply it liberally, and re-apply frequently, especially after being in the water.
Remember that UV rays can bounce off water, sand, and other surfaces, so all skin needs to be protected, not just those exposed to overhead sun. In addition, drink water frequently as spending time in the sun can be very dehydrating.
Immediate symptoms of sunburn are hot, red, tender skin; pain when the skin is touched or rubbed; and possible dehydration. Several days after exposure, the skin may swell, blister, and peel. Long-term effects of multiple sunburns include permanent skin damage, sunspots and skin cancer.
Mild sunburns can be treated with damp cloths or cool compresses to reduce the pain, soaking in lukewarm water without soap, and applying cooling, moisturizing lotions such as aloe vera. Drink plenty of fluids to stay hydrated.
Severe sunburn can cause sun poisoning, with symptoms including fever, nausea, chills, dizziness, rapid pulse, rapid breathing, dehydration, and shock. Seek medical attention for sun poisoning.
Ultraviolet rays are just as likely to damage your eyes as your skin, but they are often not properly protected. While most people know to never look directly at the sun—it can cause retinal damage—you may not realize that continual UV exposure can also be dangerous.
Short-term effects of overexposure to direct sunlight include photokeratitis, which feels like a sand or grit in the eye. Long-term cumulative effects can lead to harmful eye disease such as cataracts, macular degeneration, and growths on top of the eye that grow into the cornea (pterygia and pingueculae).
To protect your eyes, wear hats and sunglasses that block at least 98 percent of both UVA and UVB rays.
Tips for Staying Cool:
• In the evenings when the air outside is cooler, open all windows and doors, and run fans to promote circulation. During the day, close the doors, windows, blinds and curtains to keep the indoors cool as long as possible.
• Use water to cool down: Soak feet in tubs of cool water, put cool wet towels on neck or head, take cool showers or baths, or spray cool water on your skin throughout the day.
• Don’t generate more heat: Avoid using extra lights, appliances and even the stove or oven to cook as they increase the room temperature.
• Eat light: Eat plenty of fruits, which have high water content, and try using them in home-made fruit smoothies and popsicles as cool snacks. Many vegetables also contain water (including cucumbers, tomatoes and lettuce), and salads make perfect no-cook meals. Avoid large, protein-rich meals that can increase metabolic heat and warm the body.
• Drink smart: The most important thing to stay beat the heat is to drink fluids frequently throughout the day. Plain water is perfect to stay hydrated, but if you are sweating excessively, (low-calorie) electrolyte replacement drinks are a good choice as well. Avoid alcoholic beverages and caffeine, both of which can act as diuretics and promote dehydration.
So when the temperature rises, beat the heat and stay cool!