Summer Days, Hot Days: How to Protect Yourself
By Adam Brochert, M.D.
PersonalMD Medical Advisory Board
The summer months are well upon us, bringing people out of their caves and into the sunshine. Summer is a great time to enjoy the outdoors and get back in shape. But summertime has its special set of health hazards, which can often be prevented. Following are a few basic summer health tips that can help keep the doctor away while you enjoy the fun and sun.
The summer is a great time to get back in shape. That "lousy weather" excuse is no good on most days between June and August. Regular exercise has been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease, boost the immune system and keep depression away. It also gives people a chance to lose some of the weight that often accumulates in the winter months. Remember to drink lots of fluids to avoid dehydration. The morning and evening time are the best times for exercise, when the hottest hours have passed. Use common sense and avoid overdoing it, which can easily lead to heat exhaustion and other heat injury in the summer sun. Always wear a helmet when riding a bike.
While out in the sun, protect your skin. The risk of skin cancer is directly related to the amount of sun exposure over the course of one's lifetime. Hats, long sleeve shirts and sunglasses help to protect the eyes. For those who prefer less clothing in the summer, sunscreen is a good alternative. Make sure to use sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or more, since that protects against both UVA and UVB rays. Those who choose to ignore the above tips should keep a lookout for sunburns and exit from the sun immediately to avoid more serious damage to the skin.
Summer is also a time for great outdoor eating and picnics. Remember, however, that food poisoning is also more common during the summer months. Unfortunately, bacteria love warm weather as much as we do. Perishable or spoilable food should not be left out for more than 2 hours and no more than 1 hour if the temperature is more than 90 F. When in doubt, throw it out! When going on a picnic, store things such as lunchmeats and potato salads inside coolers that contain ice. Cook all meats thoroughly, especially when grilling. Brown or black on the outside doesn't always mean the meat is properly cooked on the inside. The cooks and others handling the food should wash their hands before and after touching it. Finger foods are great, but also a good way to spread bacteria. Try to keep items separate and remind kids not to touch every food item on the tray.
Speaking of kids, never forget how quickly they can get into trouble. This is especially important near busy streets and water. Kids should never swim or play near a busy street unsupervised.
Insect's love the warm weather too and can be quite annoying. Long pants and sleeves are the best ways to protect the skin, but repellants allow you to bare it and still grin. Don't use repellants over cuts or irritated skin. When protecting the face, apply repellant to the hands and rub on the face - never spray repellant directly onto the face. Avoid use of repellant around the eyes and mouth. Also, don't let the younger kids put on their own repellant; do it for them. First, spray repellant on your hands and then apply it to the child's skin. Don't put repellant onto the child's hands, as they may rub their eyes or put their hands in their mouth. Also remember to keep the bug spray away from the food.
Tick bites can also be a problem in the summer time, mostly for the itching they cause. However, tick bites can spread serious infections, including Lyme disease. After outdoor activities near the wood, check yourself and any children for ticks. Protective clothing is the best preventive measure. Ticks should be removed quickly with tweezers and you should try to avoid crushing the body. If a rash or fever develops after a tick bite, see your doctor right away.
Summer is a glorious time of the year for most people. Getting out of the house or apartment and exploring the world does have its hazards, however few basic health tips should help make sure you don't have to go back inside for the wrong reasons.
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