Summer is finally upon us! And with it, of course, comes the sun. For many of us, lots of it.
If you’re making plans for summer fun and vacations, keep in mind that the sun, while the source of life for our planet, has potentially dangerous effects that should not be overlooked.
Below, we’ll explain the basics for helping to keep you and your family safe and healthy in the summer months.
Enough has been said concerning the harmful effects of UV rays. Everyone knows of the risk of skin cancers incurred by sunbathing or tanning bed use.
Every man, woman, and child ought to be applying UVA and UVB-filtering sunscreen prior to outdoor ventures that involve exposure to sunlight, especially between the hours of 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m., when the sun’s rays are at their strongest.
People living near the equator and at high altitudes need to be particularly vigilant concerning protection. Parents should consider not only themselves, but their children as well, since blistering sunburns early in life have been associated with the development of skin cancers in adulthood.
Ultraviolet-blocking sunglasses and protective hats and clothing offer significant protection and, unlike sunscreen, don’t have to be reapplied throughout the day.
For those who deliberately seek sun exposure to maximize their skin’s vitamin D production, this practice may be safe on occasion, but it is not suggested as a regular routine.
Vitamin D supplements are inexpensive, less time-consuming than sunbathing, and confer no health risk if consumed in a reasonable dose.
If you are unsure of the right amount of the vitamin to use, arrange to have your blood tested for serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D and adjust your vitamin dose accordingly.
While the sun’s ultraviolet rays can cause deadly effects later in life, the heat imparted by our nearest star can kill within hours. The increased incidence of heat stroke, the most serious form of heat injury, is usually well-publicized during heat waves and occurs most often among older people.
Heatstroke symptoms include a body temperature of 104 degrees Fahrenheit or higher, altered mental state, dry skin (unless vigorously exercising), skin flushing, nausea and vomiting, headache and rapid breathing or heart rate.
Heat stroke most often afflicts older individuals due to a reduction in their blood vessels’ ability to dilate in response to heat, which is caused by a decrease in nitric oxide production. This also increases the risk for heart-related problems.
Recent studies show folic acid increases vasodilation by increasing nitric oxide production. This is valuable for aging men and women to protect against the cardiac risks associated with hot weather.
For the over-50 crowd, vigorously exercising in an air-conditioned gym might be a smarter choice during heat waves. However, even elite, young athletes are subject to the effects of overheating and dehydration and should be aware of their signs.
Consuming plenty of fluids during hot weather is essential. However, like anything else, this can be overdone. Regardless, the increased sweating that occurs during hot weather, which is even greater when one engages in sports or work outside can result in dehydration.
Signs of dehydration include thirst, decreased urination, dry mouth, fatigue or sleepiness, dark urine, headache, dry skin, and dizziness. Severe dehydration can lead to weakness, heart palpitations, elevated temperature, confusion and fainting, which requires emergency treatment.
Dehydration is usually a major factor in heat stroke, in combination with exposure to high temperatures.
Although fluids are a necessity while playing in the sun, those that contain caffeine, which include coffee, Pepsi, Coke, Mountain Dew, and others, can actually increase dehydration due to caffeine’s diuretic effect, and should be limited or avoided altogether.
Pure water or electrolyte-containing drinks are always better choices!