Summer Safety and Wellness Tips

Hit the beach
Hit the beach

“Summertime and the living is easy…” My father often sang these words, though I can’t recall him ever singing the rest of the song. That is beside the point. Summertime is here and so here is some advice to make the living of it easier.

Let’s talk about protecting our skin while the sun is burning down. July is UV Safety Month. I didn’t know there was such a thing, but I do now and so do you. Nobody wants melanoma, skin cancer, or the leathery rough skin that makes you look 20 years older than you are. The best prevention info lies ahead.

First of all put sunscreen on that has an SPF rating of 15 or higher a half hour before you head outdoors. Don’t forget your ears, scalp, and back of your neck. (Even if I wear a hat, I find that my ears are exposed and I forget to put sunscreen on them. I get an uncomfortable burn and then peeling skin.) If you are swimming or sweating a lot, reapply your sunscreen.

Avoid being out in the sun between 10 am and 2 pm. That is when the sun shines down the strongest. Trees block out 60% of the sun’s rays. Umbrellas in this country are customarily used to prevent one from getting drenched in the rain. In other countries, umbrellas help keep out the sun on hot days. Try using a parasol.

Dress for summer. I don’t know about you, but the heat really gets to me sometimes. So much for being fresh as a daisy. Try wet and limp like a noodle. When it gets hot, we think about wearing less clothing to keep cooler. However, clothing provides even better protection than sunscreen alone. Wear a brimmed hat. Wear cotton clothing and lighter colors. Cotton is much cooler than other fabrics and breathes better.

Here are some signs of heat stroke – excessive sweating, extreme thirst, muscle cramps, headache, nausea and dizziness. Promptly get the person in the shade or an air conditioned room. Have him/her rest and drink water or something that has sodium and potassium in it. Something like Gatorade or energy water. I am not advocating a certain brand, just giving you an idea of what will help replace lost nutrients. No brand is better than the other. Quick intervention will help restore the person’s fluid balance and keep him/her from needing an ER.

So you are outdoors for the day enjoying a family picnic. One of the family members has been participating in a fast-paced soccer game. He becomes very red-faced, his skin feels hot, and he is not sweating as a person normally would when exercising. He’s even starting to be a little spacy and then seems to be losing consciousness. Breathing becomes very rapid as the body tries to cool itself. You were a Girl Scout and you have a thermometer. His temp reads 104’ F or higher. His pulse is rapid.These signs indicate a true emergency – heat exhaustion. While someone is calling for an ambulance others in the group can kick into action. Take some ice from the cooler and wrap in plastic or a zip lock and place the bags at the top of his head, in his armpits and groin area. Try to have the person drink fluids if they have not lost consciousness. Make sure to get them in the shade.

A few other things might have helped prevent this event. Take breaks from intense activity and get in the shade for a bit. Get plenty of water in. Pay attention to what your body is telling you before things get out of control. Some stores sell a necklace, so to speak, which has bubbles that are filled with fluid. You put this in the freezer before going out on your trip and put it around your neck when you go. This really helped one of the young woman in our church group one year when we were taking a hike one summer. She was given plenty of water and then the cold “necklace” was placed on her, and it really made a world of difference. Taking rests in the shade as we climbed also prevented an emergency situation.

“Summertime and the living is easy…” It sure can be with a lot of fun thrown in as well. Don’t forget your water bottle, take breaks, and enjoy the good times. This could be a summer you will gladly remember if you follow these tips, instead of a nightmare because of a heat emergency.

Stay Safe and Enjoy the Summer!

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