The summer is most people’s favorite time of year, the days are longer, the weather is warmer which means we spend more time outdoors and enjoying our surroundings. But with all the excitement that summer brings, it can also bring about some health risks when the temperature gets too high and the bugs emerge. Therefore it is important to be mindful of how to stay safe while spending time in the heat and during certain activities that can pose a risk to our health.
There are quite a few heat related illnesses that can occur from too much exposure to high temperatures – heat exhaustion, heat stroke, and sunburn, to name a few. These illnesses can be very serious and have effects on the body that may not be obvious, and it has always been said that children and seniors are the ones most affected but recent research has shown that the heat can impact people of any age.
A study has shown that prolonged exposure to extreme heat can lower cognitive function in college students. During a heat wave, students were shown to have longer reaction times and perform worse on a series of basic academic tests, after living in dorm rooms without air conditioning compared to students who did have air conditioning. This suggests that something as simple as keeping your environment cool during a heat wave can have an impact on your overall health – for all age groups.
We want you to fully enjoy your summer so we have compiled some tips to help protect you and your family:
1. Use sun and water safety
To avoid heat-related illnesses:
- avoid ice-cold water, the drastic change in an overheated body temperature could result in muscle cramps
- Avoid sports drinks, most of them contain large amounts of sugar or caffeine which will just make you more thirsty
- Avoid high protein foods, they take more energy to digest so it is best to reach for fruits or breads when the temperature spikes
- If the air is too hot, avoid using box fans, they will just spread the hot air around – it is best to find air conditioning
The best prevention for skin cancer and damage from UV rays is covering up. Wear light clothing that covers your skin, or consistently reapply sun protection of at least SPF 30 that protects from both UVA and UVB rays.
Plan activities outside of peak heat hours (10 a.m.-4 p.m.) and drink lots of water throughout the day. Take water breaks every 20 minutes during outdoor play, and take a break if you are showing any signs of heat-related illness. Always supervise kids around bodies of water, and teach them to swim at an early age.
Zika, West Nile virus and Lyme disease are three of the most common insect-transmitted illnesses, although a host of others make the rounds, too. Do what you can to protect yourself and others by staying indoors during the evenings, and wearing long sleeves and pants when you must be outside.
Use an effective insect repellent containing 10-30 percent DEET, as per AAP and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations. Children younger than age 2 months should not wear insect repellent, and it should be washed off when returning indoors.
Check yourself and your children for ticks after outdoor playtime is over.
3. Maintain healthy habits
It can be common for hand-washing to be neglected at any time, but it can sometimes difficult to have access to a sink, soap and water during certain times like camping and other outdoor activities. In these cases, bring hand sanitizer to ensure proper hand hygiene. You can prevent countless illnesses and disease with simple but proper hand washing throughout the summer months.
In addition, avoid overeating the traditional summer meals of simple carbs (hamburgers, hot dogs, fries, barbecue) and treats (soda, ice cream, popsicles). These indulgences are OK on occasion but can affect your immune system if regularly consumed.
4. Prevent injuries.
People commonly use a variety of outdoor equipment during the summer that requires special care.
When bicycling, skateboarding, or rollerblading, wear a helmet that fits and has a safety label. This simple act prevents countless traumatic brain injuries and other problems.
5. Be mindful of your surroundings when traveling.