The sun’s out, temperatures are warmer, kids are on summer vacation, time for fun and making memories! Before you crank up the grill and drag out the kiddie pool, there are some important things to think about before we begin this most relaxing of seasons! Summer brings fun and freedom but there are also risks that go along with that. Medical staff see a steady stream of sunburn, heat exhaustion, dehydration, food poisoning and insect bites in the summertime. The best decision you can make is to plan ahead and be proactive so this summer doesn’t bring too many unexpected surprises and unwanted situations. Let’s walk through the top 10 things you can do for your health to make this the best summer ever!
#1 WEAR SUNSCREEN!!
This isn’t really a suggestion, it’s a legitimate necessary practice for good summer health. The importance of using sunscreen (all the time, but in the summer especially) will protect your skin from sunburn and the risk of skin cancers. Make sure to use at least an SPF 30 with titanium dioxide or zinc oxide and apply 15 minutes before going outdoors. You will want to reapply at least every 2 hours and if you are swimming/in water, reapply after getting out of the water and drying off. I know most brands say “water-proof” but it can and will wash off so make a conscious effort to reapply frequently.
#2 STAY HYDRATED!!
Common fact: when it’s hot, you sweat. And sweating does help your body to cool down but it also means you are losing fluid, which can help contribute to you becoming dehydrated. Water is something you must drink all day everyday, but especially in hot weather. And it helps to avoid caffeine and alcohol, they pull moisture from your body, the opposite of what you need.
#3 INSECT REPELLANT
Summer means outdoor fun and being outdoors means it is time to fight the insects that want to feast off of you! If you can’t wear long sleeves and pants (I mean, seriously, it is HOT) then always wear insect repellent when you go outdoors. The CDC advises your insect repellent contain at least 20% of the compound DEET, which protects you from mosquitos, ticks, flies, and other types of insects that you’d rather not have using you as a snack. Put on your sunscreen first, then insect repellent. When leaving the outdoors to return indoors, inspect yours and your children’s body and clothing for ticks. They like to “hang” around!
#4 AVOID HEAT EXHAUSTION
There’s no escaping the heat of summer, but there are things you can do, precautions you can take to avoid becoming a victim to heat exhaustion.
- Wear hats to shield your scalp, face, and eyes from the sun
- Wear light colored clothing. Dark colors absorb more heat from the sun making you more susceptible to overheating
- Staying properly hydrated will help your body better regulate temperature
- Avoid beverages with caffeine and alcohol, they drain the moisture right out of you which can lead to dehydration
- The sun and UV rays are at their peak from about 10 am until 2 pm. Avoid being outdoors during these hours if you can
- If you must be outdoors, find a shady spot you can retreat to for escaping the sun
- Fruits and vegetables are always the best meal choices, but even more so in hot weather because they contain good amounts of water to keep you hydrated and most can be served chilled, helping your body to cool off
#5 WEAR SUNGLASSES
It’s no secret that the sun is at its peak in the summer with heat intensity and UV rays, but it’s brightness can also cause problems. It’s imperative that you wear sunglasses to protect your eyes from the UV rays of the sun, which can cause damage to your corneas. As you choose the right pair of sunglasses for you, make sure they block UV rays 90-100%.
#6 STAY ACTIVE SAFELY
The nice warmth of summer is always a good push to get outside and get active. Medical studies have shown that when we are outdoors our blood pressure and heart rate improve. Be careful to not over exert yourself, especially in the hottest hours of the day. Try to do your outdoor exercise in the mornings or after the heat of the day is over, near sunset. Stay hydrated, by drinking plenty of water, wear your sunscreen and light clothing to keep your body as cool as possible. Planting a vegetable garden or flowers is also a great hobby to get you outdoors and enjoy the beauty of nature.
#7 EAT HEALTHY
Summer brings the best produce we see all year long. Lots of wonderful fruits and vegetables are in season and just in time to add these healthy choices to your diet. Fresh salads with veggies are always a good choice, along with berries and melons, and squash and peppers go right on the grill with your favorite lean meats. Not only are these yummy and in season, they bring antioxidants and fiber to your diet to make you feel great and help fuel your body to take those long walks or run around your neighborhood or local park.
#8 GET ENOUGH REST
Not getting enough rest is a frequent problem for many. It can raise your blood sugar, hunger, and your risk of getting sick and make it harder to concentrate. Longer daylight hours in the summer may tempt you to want to stay up later and sleep later, but keeping your same sleep schedule will help you feel rested and ready to take on the day. Try to avoid taking naps, but sometimes those hot days will call for a little snooze in the middle of the day.
#9 FOOD POISONING
Be aware of the food you are taking or preparing outdoors. Food poisoning is a common occurrence in the heat of summer. When cooking or grilling meats be sure to use a food thermometer to make sure the internal temperature of the meat is high enough to kill any bacteria that could be present. Keep raw, uncooked meat and its juices and drippings away from any other foods that are being consumed and wash all utensils and dishes that have come into contact with raw meat immediately before using again. Bacteria can grow rapidly in food left outside, especially meat or foods containing dairy or eggs. Food should not sit out any longer than two hours at room temperature or one hour outdoors, especially if the temperature outside is above 90 degrees.
#10 MAKE GRATITUDE YOUR FOCUS
Take the slower pace of summer to focus on what you are grateful for. Begin each day by thinking through and writing out your top 3 things you are grateful for that day. You start each day focusing on the positive instead of the negative and it sets a course for finding gratitude as your day goes on. At the end of the summer, you will have written notes of all your gratitude and gratitude that is talked through and lived out produces more gratitude, which is a contagious quality and state of mind. Make this summer the best you’ve ever had, the possibilities are endless and right in the palm of your hand!
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