Summertime is here! Outdoor Fun Under the Sun!
Summertime is here again. For many of us it means spending a few more hours outdoors enjoying the nicer weather, sports events, or other adventures. Are you exploring the local parks or playing at the nearby lakes, river or beaches? Even for those of us less mobile, the change in the season means a change in routine, be it holiday visitors and family occasions, or working on household projects better suited for sunny weather. So, whether you’re getting out there into it, or you’re at home and enjoying everything coming to you, there are a few health tips that can ensure the season unfolds smoothly.
Fun in the Sun
The number one summertime malady we’ve all experienced at least once is dehydration. Kicking off summer with Memorial Day weekend means for many being outdoors in the sun or being more active for the first time in months. While burning calories in the gym, or by running or through yoga or other regimens, doing these activities outside with higher temperatures and other variables like wind or humidity, increases perspiration exponentially causing us to dehydrate more rapidly than when inside. The solution is simple of course; keep a ready source of water around, or other beverages that will keep you hydrated. Avoid sugary drinks during peak activities as sugars inhibit hydration, but instead find an herbal sweetened iced tea (with licorice or stevia for example) –recent studies have shown some teas to actually be super hydrators, where you get more restorative effects than with just a plain glass of water. In any case, keep something to drink on hand, or know where the nearest drinkable water source is if you are planning to be outdoors for extended lengths of time. [The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Volume 103, Issue 3, 1 March 2016, Pages 717–723, https://doi.org/10.3945/ajcn.115.114769]
Safe Under the Sun
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure in this case, an ounce of SPF 30 sunblock goes even further. We’ve known now for at least three generations that the sun’s rays can have damaging effects with prolonged exposure, especially when the exposure results in sunburn. A tan for many affords the glow of health and vitality, and as summer outdoor activities fill the calendar this effect comes naturally for many, but it comes at a cost if care is not taken. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends everyone use sunscreen that offers the following: broad-spectrum protection (protects against UVA and UVB rays); SPF 30 or higher; and water resistance. Further, they recommend we seek the shade whenever possible even on a cloudy day your skin is at risk. Use cosmetic tanning methods to reduce exposure and avoid tanning beds completely. Again, like everything, enjoy the sun in moderation, and keep in mind your birthday suit has to last you your whole lifetime, so make sure you have the sunblock on hand whenever you are outdoors and that your sunglasses provide UVA/UVB protection. Your skin will thank you.
Beware, they are Out There
And they want to suck your blood. Many summer adventures bring us outdoors into the parks or the wildlife areas to play and enjoy the warmer weather. They also bring us into contact with a few pests that can be particularly harmful if care is not taken. Preventing or reducing exposure is fairly simple with the right tools, although avoidance is key with one of these clingy insects. Most flying or stinging insects can be kept at bay by wearing long sleeves and an application of insect repellent. West Nile, encephalitis, as well as Zika are now real concerns when it comes to mosquitoes and areas where standing water is common, such as bayous, canal areas, irrigated farm and pasture lands, and most of our scenic wildlife areas. Sand fleas, fleas and ticks are the other pests that can pop up unexpectedly, either from the grass, or sand, or from the trees and bushes above. Avoid areas where there is a seasonal pattern to these insects’ activity and number, and make sure you and your pets are inspected after any adventures into untamed woodlands or mountain hiking trails. Like with sunblock, be prepared and check local reports or health advisories around insect exposure and level of risk. We can’t completely avoid these little vampires, but we can do a lot to reduce the time and opportunity they have to cause harm.
Be careful. Be safe. Have fun!