Summer is a great time to relax and have fun, but it’s also important to stay safe. That means avoiding overexposure to the sun, heat, and humidity, and of course, staying hydrated.
Maintaining an overall healthy lifestyle is key to keeping your body cool and hydrated, but how you dress and your choice of sunscreens can also make a difference. Follow these easy tips to avoid skin damage, dehydration, and other health risks that come from excessive heat.
Watch the clock—and the weather
Avoid peak hours of sunlight when the temperatures and UV rays are at their highest, normally between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. That’s the best time to head inside, get food and water, let your body cool down, and maybe even take a nap.
Be sure to pay attention to any heat-related warnings. When heat and humidity are at their highest, stay inside with the A/C or fan going. When it’s hot and you’re active, stay close to restaurants, convenience stores, or any other place that can offer cold temperatures and beverages should you need them in an emergency. If you’re at the beach or pool, the cool water offers great relief from the heat.
Light-colored, loose fitting clothes (preferably in breathable fabrics) are the smart choice for hot summer days. Dark clothing absorbs more heat, and tight clothes don’t let sweat—your body’s natural cooling system—evaporate.
Sunglasses and hats aren’t just stylish accessories, they’re necessities when you’re enjoying the great outdoors. Choose sunglasses that block 90 to 100% of UV rays (this helps reduce the chances of cataracts and vision degeneration that occur with age) and opt for wide-brimmed hats that prevent those harmful UV rays from hitting the sensitive spots on your face and causing wrinkles and skin damage.
Remember the sunscreen
Sunscreen and lip balm add another layer of defense. Use sunscreen with an SPF rating of at least 30. Use a higher-rated, waterproof sunscreen if you’ll be poolside or out on the beach and reapply if you sweat a lot or get in the water.
Don’t forget to cover areas that burn easily: nose, ears, shoulders, and back of the neck. A lip balm with SPF protection blocks out the sun and keeps in moisture for your lips.
Be sure to stay hydrated
Drinking plenty of water (at least 6-8 glasses a day) will help you prevent dehydration. That doesn’t just mean drinking when you’re thirsty—by the time you’re thirsty, your body is already dehydrated. Symptoms of dehydration can happen fast during the summer (see list below) and water’s the best medicine for that.
FYI, alcohol and caffeine don’t actually quench your thirst, they’re diuretics and can prevent you from staying hydrated, especially when the temps start to climb and the humidity sets in. A good way to tell if you’re properly hydrated? Check your urine—the clearer, the better.
What you eat also matters. Fresh fruits and vegetables are easy to digest and often high in water content. Salads and other dishes rich in seasonal produce will keep you feeling light and hydrated. The tingling feeling and accompanying sweat caused by spicy foods (if you can handle them) has a purpose; the sweat cools your body down. Choose low-fat meats (a good rule of thumb anyway)—fat takes longer to digest and carries a higher salt content, which doesn’t help with hydration.
Know the warning signs
Be wary of heat stroke and other heat-related health risks. Look for these signs:
- dry skin
- appearing disoriented
- tiring easily
- frequent and severe headaches
- quickening pulse
If you find yourself experiencing these symptoms, contact your doctor immediately.