How to Protect Yourself from the Hot and Humid Conditions of Summer
Summer is upon us, and for most of us, it is a special season of barbecues and beach weekends. But there are certain things to be wary of during this time of the year. For instance, sunburn can occur even when the temperature is not especially high. It turns the skin red and can cause moderate discomfort. Even though severe cases can blister the skin, sunburn is usually minor. However, repeated sunburn over many years may increase the risk of cancer. To help prevent sunburn, derm specialists suggest using a sunscreen with an SPF (sun protection factor) of at least 15 and avoiding prolonged exposure to the sun, especially when it is at its strongest – between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m.
Sweating and flushed skin are part of the body’s natural cooling mechanism. Still, there are signs that the heat is getting the best of you: Heat rash (also called prickly heat) is marked by patches of tingling red bumps; painful spasms (or heat cramps) occur when the body sweats causing the muscles to lose minerals and salt; heavy sweating, dizziness, headache, nausea, and, occasionally, fainting are symptoms of heat exhaustion; and heat stroke can occur when body temperature rises to 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) or more – sweating may subside or stop entirely, resulting in hot, dry skin, and the victim may become disoriented or unconscious.
The body can be overwhelmed by extreme heat and humidity, particularly if you overexert yourself. Take the following precautions:
– Avoid overexertion. Take regular breaks during exercise. If you really want to squeeze in your outdoor workout during a hot spell, go out early in the morning or in the evening, and stay in the shade.
– Drink up. Doing so, even if you don’t feel thirsty, will help replace valuable fluids. Water is best. Avoid alcohol and caffeine – both are diuretics, which remove fluids from the body by increasing urination.
– Eat light. Cold meals, such as salads, are best; use the oven as little as possible. Replenish the salt and minerals lost to sweating with lightly salted foods and beverages – salt tablets, however, are not recommended.
– Wear lightweight, loose-fitting clothing. Light colors and natural fibers, especially cotton, are the best choice. Baseball caps or sun hats can also help by protecting the eyes from glare and shading the face.
– Just cool it. If you have air conditioning, use it. If you don’t, make regular visits to air-conditioned public places, such as malls and movie theaters. If nothing else, use a fan. It won’t cool the air, but it will encourage the evaporation of sweat.
Remember that older folks, young children, and those who are obese or suffer from diabetes, low blood pressure, or heart disease should be especially careful when the mercury soars. To enjoy summer in good health, protect your skin from the sun and observe these measures to beat the heat.