School’s out, the weather’s warm and it’s time to decompress and reconnect with family, friends, nature and oneself through outdoor activities and adventures. But before you get caught up in the moment, remember to come prepared for your summer fun in the sun.
Heat Protection Tips
Elevated heat conditions cause over 600 deaths per year according to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Older individuals, children and people with chronic health conditions (such as obesity, heart disease and mental illness) have a higher risk of complication from heat exposure. While high-risk folks require close surveillance when exposed to heat, everyone should take precautions to prevent and monitor for signs and symptoms of heat-related illness. We’ve put together a few tips to keep you feeling (and looking) cool this season.
Drink up! Thirst is a later sign of dehydration, so don’t wait until you’re feeling parched to chug your bottle. Instead, drink water consistently throughout the day. If you’re not a fan of water, try fresh cut cucumbers and lemon or water enhancers or to add a little flavor. (The Simple Truth® Raspberry Lemonade is my personal favorite.)
Caution with the cocktails. Alcohol pulls water out of the body, accelerates dehydration and gives your body the illusion that thirst is being quenched with a nice cold beverage. Additionally, its carefree effects can inhibit an individual’s ability to recognize early signs and symptoms of overexposure to heat and sun. Enjoy an umbrella-adorned drink or alcoholic beverage of choice, but take it slow and drink water in between cocktail sips. In extreme heat, it’s best to skip the adult beverages altogether.
Keep it cool. Keep airflow going with a fan, cool off with a mister and take time outs in an air-conditioned room to cool down. For periods of extreme heat, don’t rely on a fan as a primary cooling device, especially if high risk for complications. Always wear loose, breathable and light-colored clothing to promote airflow and prevent trapping additional heat.
Slow down. In the heat, modify your sports and workout routines. Take frequent water breaks, lower the intensity and length, and aim to keep physical activity restricted to early mornings or late evenings, avoiding peak sun times.
Never confine. Never leave people or pets in the car! The temperature within a car can rise fast and furiously. Even when it’s a comfortable 70°F, the temperature inside the car can quickly climb to 110°F, and cracking windows won’t help the greenhouse effect. A quick 10-minute trip can lead to a 20° leap, creating the perfect conditions for heat stroke. Check out this chart highlighting estimated vehicle interior air temperature vs. elapsed time.
Look before you lock! If you have young children, consider setting safeguards to trigger a backseat scan when you exit your car. According to KidsAndCars.org™, an average of 38 deaths a year are due to child vehicular heatstroke. Put a workbag, purse or even your left shoe in the backseat with the child to ensure nothing gets left behind when parking the car for the day. Additionally, ask the childcare provider to call if the child does not show up on time. Life is busy. People get tired. Don’t succumb to fatal distractions and look before you lock.
Warning: Prepare for stomach knots and tears. The KidsAndCars.org™ is a fantastic website that works hard to create awareness around leaving children in cars; however, the stories are heartbreaking. Brace yourself.
Skin Protection for Sunny Days
As we all know, unprotected sun exposure can lead to skin damage and skin cancer. What’s more, according to the CDC, the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays can harm skin in as little as 15 minutes.
Melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer and while the average age of people diagnosed is 63, it’s one of the most common cancers in young adults, especially young women, and the occurrence has doubled over the past 30 years in the United States.
Use sunscreen. Select a waterproof, not just water resistant, sunscreen that’s 30 SPF or higher. While a higher SPF number provides more protection, the key is to reapply the sunscreen every 1.5 to 2 hours. Be sure to grab a bottle that’s broad spectrum and protects against UVA & UVB rays.
Avoid sun exposure. Steer clear of direct sunlight from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. when possible. If you’re in the sun, especially during peak hours, in addition to your routine application of sunscreen, use a swim shirt, umbrella, hat and sunglasses to protect your skin, head and eyes!
Skip tanning beds. The Melanoma Research Alliance cites that tanning bed use increases risk for melanoma by 75% – a staggering statistic! Don’t entertain the myth that getting a base tan from a bed prevents burning on a beach. Melanoma is the #1 most diagnosed cancer in individuals ages 25 to 29 in the United States with a higher prevalence in women. Coincidence? Doubt it.
A week after celebrating my 31st birthday, I was tagged with my first melanoma lesion. Protection from skin cancer is near and dear to my heart, so hear my final plea as a patient, parent and practitioner: protect yourself, say no to tanning beds, perform routine skin self-assessments and get screened annually as part of your physical or by a dermatologist. Consult a clinic practitioner, primary care provider or dermatologist if you have a suspicious freckle or mole.