Each season brings its own kind of fun and enjoyment, but with these pluses also come a special set of challenges. The arrival of summer is no exception. As the sun beats down and the air heats up, remember these 5 important tricks to help you stay safe and healthy this summer.
1. Stay hydrated, stay healthy. Water is essential to life, helping maintain a clear mind and working body. And because your body is roughly 60 percent water, it is necessary to maintain hydration levels by replenishing the water used by your body throughout the day. Mild dehydration produces symptoms including headache, decreased energy and urine/sweat output. Severe dehydration can lead to swelling of the brain, seizures, kidney failure and even death. And although many people fail to drink enough water, it is also possible to over-hydrate. To avoid over-hydration while exercising in the summer sun, sip, don't chug. A general rule of thumb for how much water to drink is 1/2 your body weight in ounces. So, a 150 lb person would try for about 75 oz of water a day. If you're looking for some creative ways to take in more water, consider herbal, caffeine-free tea or foods high in water content such as watermelon and cucumbers.
2. Embrace safe and healthy sun exposure. The sun can actually be healthy for you. Think about it - throughout history, people have survived while spending significant amounts of their time outdoors, so why shouldn't we be able to also? Modern research has found that while excessive exposure to sunlight can increase the risk of certain types of skin cancer, moderate sun exposure is actually less dangerous than sporadic exposure. Research has also shown that sun exposure without sunburn may significantly decrease the risk of melanoma, one of the more deadly forms of skin cancer. Research has also shown a significant difference between the sun's UVA rays, which can have negative effects on the skin, and its UVB rays, which help your body produce necessary vitamin D. UVA rays are prominent at all times of the day, but UVB rays are specific to midday sunlight, still all UV radiation peaks at midday, so you should take precautions to avoid burning. Safe and healthy sun exposure is all about timing, exposure training and taking precautions to avoid sunburn. Go ahead and enjoy the summer sun, but protect your skin from sunburn using clothing, shade, and sunscreen.
3. Love your sunscreen. Sunscreen is important because the sun's UVA rays can damage skin. Some sunscreens prevent sunburn but not other types of skin damage, so it is important to make sure your sunscreen offers broad spectrum protection. Avoid sunscreen containing vitamin A, also called retinyl palmitate or retinol, as these may carry adverse health effects down the road. You should also avoid products containing oxybenzone, a synthetic estrogen that can disrupt your hormones. Instead, look for products containing zinc oxide, 3% avobensone or Mexoryl SX which will protect your skin from harmful UVA radiation. EWG's Best Sunscreens is an excellent guide to help you pick the right sunscreen for you. With information on some 700 SPF-rated products, high ratings are given to brands that provide broad spectrum, long-lasting protection using ingredients that carry fewer health concerns. You might also want to peruse your local natural grocery or drug store for natural, safe sunscreens.
4. Protect with clothing. Clothing is one of the best ways to protect your skin from sunburn. Wear a hat to protect your delicate scalp and face from over-exposure to sun. Remember your sunglasses. They aren't just a fashion accessory; they can also help protect your eyes from UV radiation which can cause cataracts. Wearing light-colored clothing will not only reflect the sun's rays, keeping you cooler than dark colors, but will also help limit bug bites and bee stings.
5. Repel bugs naturally. Bug bites not only itch, but they can also transmit potentially deadly diseases such as West Nile virus and Lyme disease. Choosing the right bug repellant for you is very important. DEET, a relatively common ingredient in synthetic bug repellants, can be toxic. Most recommend using DEET containing repellents sparingly, but why not eliminate the DEET altogether! The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends using repellents containing picaridin or lemon eucalyptus oil instead. Natural repellents containing citronella work well for keeping mosquitoes at bay, while those containing lemon eucalyptus oil work best for repelling ticks.
Photo Credit. FreeImages.com. http://www.freeimages.com/photo/880678
Water, The Essential Nutrient. DrWeil.com. http://www.drweil.com/drw/u/ART00581/water-an-essential-part-of-life.html
Dehydration Myths: 7 Things You Should Know About Staying Hydrated. The Huffington Post. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/27/dehydration-myths_n_3498380.html
EWG's Best Sunscreens. The Environmental Working Group. http://www.ewg.org/2014sunscreen/
Top Sun Safety Tips. The Environmental Working Group. http://www.ewg.org/2014sunscreen/top-sun-safety-tips/
Make Summer Safe for Kids. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/family/kids/summer/
FAQ: Insect Repellent Use & Safety. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/westnile/faq/repellent.html
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