August 5, 2013
Summer is in full swing and with it comes a host of great outdoor activities. However, this sunny season also opens the door to some serious health risks if you’re not careful. Here are some ways to keep your body safe this summer, while still enjoying the wonderful weather.
A relatively simple, yet significantly overlooked safety tip for enjoying the summer weather is to stay hydrated by making sure you drink plenty of water. If you do not drink enough water, you run the risk of becoming dehydrated. Dehydration occurs when you lose more fluid than you take in. This is most commonly caused by excessive sweating but can also be caused by illness.
Symptoms of mild dehydration include dry mouth, thirst, dry skin and lightheadedness; while symptoms of more severe dehydration include fever, extremely dry skin, lack of sweating, rapid heartbeat, quick breathing and may even lead to fainting if not treated. The Mayo Clinic has some good information on the causes, risk factors and symptoms of dehydration.
So if you plan to go for a walk in the woods or enjoy a hike this summer, make sure to bring lots of water with you and drink throughout the day.
Check Yourself for Ticks
While we’re on the topic of hiking, it’s always a good idea to check yourself for ticks after spending any period of time in wooded areas or areas with tall grass. Ticks can spread a number of diseases, the most well known being Lyme disease. Lyme disease is an infection that can cause fever, fatigue, severe headaches, chills, and muscle aches. If left untreated, it could spread to the joints and heart, causing severe joint pain and possible neurological problems.
Fortunately, it is very easy to prevent this disease. When hiking or camping in the woods this summer, it is a good idea to wear long pants and a hat when walking through thickly wooded areas whenever possible. If you are wearing shorts, it is a good idea to bathe and check yourself for ticks immediately after returning indoors. Ticks typically like to stay in darker, more covered areas on your body. These include places like under your arms, behind your knees, around your waist, behind your ears and especially in your hair.
It also helps to always put on tick repellant spray before you go outside. Such sprays contain DEET, a chemical used to repel ticks, mosquitoes and other insects that bite. These sprays usually provide protection for several hours. For more information on how to prevent Lyme disease, or how to safely remove a tick from your body, visit the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s website on Lyme disease.
Protect Your Skin
With the start of summer comes the inevitable desire to spend some time sunbathing. But what many people do not realize is that prolonged exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays can harm your skin, causing premature aging and skin cancer. Fortunately, the damage from UV rays is preventable if you follow some simple steps.
First, try to either stay indoors or seek shade between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. when UV rays from sunlight are the strongest. Another simple precaution to take is to wear clothes that protect your skin from sunlight. These would be things like loose-fitting long-sleeved shirts and long pants made from tightly-woven lightweight materials. If long-sleeved shirts and long pants aren’t practical, try to wear some sort of cover for your skin. You should also wear a hat with a wide brim to protect your face, neck, and ears; these areas are often exposed to direct sunlight and can easily become burned. You should also regularly apply sunscreen when you are spending more than two hours in the sun.
Visit the Prevent Cancer Foundation’s website for more information on skin cancer prevention; as well as risk factors, symptoms and treatment.
Another good idea is to wear sunglasses that wrap all the way around your eyes when you are outside. Sunglasses help protect your eyes from UV rays. Wrap-around sunglasses not only protect your eyes but provide protection for the sensitive skin around your eyes.
Dehydration and sunburn aren’t the only dangers you can face while enjoying some time at the beach. Spending long periods of time outside on a hot day can cause heat-related illnesses like heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Heat exhaustion is similar to dehydration, in that it is caused by excessive loss of fluid through sweating. Symptoms of heat exhaustion include muscle cramps, nausea, shallow breathing, weakness and flushed skin.
Heat stroke, the more severe of the two, occurs when the body’s temperature is too high. When this happens, the body’s sweat mechanisms fail, and it is unable to cool itself down. This causes the body’s temperature to rise uncontrollably to as high as 106 degrees. Signs of heat stroke include chills, confusion, dry skin, hallucinations and throbbing headaches.
Both heat-related illnesses can be serious but are easily preventable. Make sure you drink plenty of water and keep yourself cool when out in the sun this summer. Whenever possible, stay in cool, shaded areas like indoors or underneath trees. If you do find yourself becoming over-heated, move to a cooler, shaded area as soon as possible and be sure to drink lots of water.
The summer weather opens the door for all sorts of fun activities. However, these activities bring the possibility of some health risks. So when you go to enjoy some time at the beach or take a nice walk this summer, remember the very easy ways you can keep yourself healthy this summer. Do your best to avoid staying out in the sun for too long and remember to apply plenty of sunscreen if you are outside for more than two hours. Always bring plenty of water and stay hydrated the whole day. What are some of the different ways you keep yourself safe during the summer?