Now that the kids are out of school and vacation time is here, it’s time to plan some fun in the sun – a vacation or a few days at the beach or perhaps a camp out.
Before your plans get too far down the road, remember a few health ideas that will keep summertime fun.
- The sun is hot in summer, hot enough to burn skin – even up north. Keep sunblock (SPF 50 or higher) available on every trip where outdoor exposure is likely. Wear sun protective clothing when coloring the skin is not your intention. And do a skin self-examination – check where you can see and have a close friend check those areas you can’t see – like the shoulders, the back, the buttocks, and the back of the thighs.
- Food is always a part of having fun. But food left in hot sun for longer than one hour is dangerous, especially food with meat or dairy in them – things like: mayonnaise, chicken salad, sandwich stuffing, salad dressings, yogurt and cottage cheese. Keeping foods colder than 40° F or warmer than 140° F will slow the growth of bacteria, the most common cause of food poisoning.
- If you plan to walk in the woods or in tall grass, or if you’re walking with your dog or cat in such an area, check for ticks. Most ticks, when found and removed quickly, are harmless. However, many diseases – including Lyme Disease – are carried by ticks to both humans and pets. Wear protective clothing, use an insect repellent, and do a thorough examination on returning from your outing. And check your animals, too.
- To maintain a steady internal temperature, the human body perspires freely in the hot sun. Water and salts must be replaced frequently to ward off sun stroke and dehydration. Remember that the body does not sweat colas or sweetened fruit juices. The body sweats water and salts. Replace them with the same items – water and salts. Check the drinks you consume and make sure they contain only what you need and nothing more.
- Eye cataracts (a graying or yellowing of the lens) happen to many people with aging. This is especially true in areas of more direct and intense sunlight – like the Southern US. While a few days in these conditions aren’t likely to radically increase the risk of cataracts, prolonged exposure to intense sun will hasten the formation and worsening of symptoms of cataracts. Solution: wear sunglasses when you go outside.
- Protect yourself from mosquito bites. While most mosquitoes bite in the early morning or in the evening, be alert at all times of the day. If they seem to be where you are, use DEET repellent 25-50%. Mosquitoes can carry several deadly diseases, some of which are becoming more prevalent in the US.
Now that you’re fully armed with sunglasses, sunscreen, bug repellent, appropriate clothing, water bottles, and a good food cooler – go enjoy your summer!