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Our summer has started, and we are experiencing higher outside temperatures and an increased chance of insect bites, sunburns and possible dehydration, heat exhaustion or stroke (hyperthermia). This article will highlight health strategies to prevent these types of summer health problems.
HYPERTHERMIA AND DEHYDRATION
Older adults and children are at highest risk for developing dehydration and hyperthermia. Persons taking cardiac medications such as beta blockers, ACE inhibitors, calcium channel blockers and diuretics can also have an exaggerated response to heat.
Heat exhaustion includes headaches; cool, moist skin; dizziness; generalized weakness; nausea and vomiting; and dark-colored urine. Symptoms of heat stroke include body temperature above 104°; skin that is red, hot and either moist or dry; rapid heart rate; difficulty breathing; headache, dizziness, or loss of coordination; nausea and vomiting; confusion; restlessness; seizures and unconsciousness, or coma. Heat stroke is a life-threatening condition that requires immediate medical attention.
1. Dress for the heat with lightweight, light-colored clothing with a breathable fabric. Keep the skin covered as much as possible. Wear clothing with UV protection.
2. What shoes you wear is important because feet sweat excessively in hot weather. Choose shoes that will ventilate heat and moisture. Socks should propel moisture.
3. Drink up, drink up, drink up! Hydration is essential when in working, exercising, or walking in a hot environment. Drink several cups of water before and after exposure and a cup at least every 1-2 hours when outside. Avoid caffeinated and alcoholic beverages. Check with your doctor about using salt tablets.
4. Get out of the sun periodically into a shady area if possible.
5. If a person is experiencing any symptoms suggestive of heat exhaustion or heat stroke or a cardiac event, get them out of the sun, hydrate with small sips of water if the person can swallow and seek immediate medical attention.
SUN EXPOSURE AND BURNS
We all associate a sun tan with good health. However, unprotected exposure to ultraviolet radiation can lead to sunburn, chronic skin changes and skin cancer. Protection includes wearing the appropriate garments and use of sunscreens.
Despite advertising claims for sunscreen products, brand matters less than appropriate use of the product.
Food and Drug Administration guidelines:
• Only sunscreens that offer protection from both UVA and UVB rays and have a SPF of 15 or higher can advertise broad-spectrum coverage and can claim to reduce the risk of skin cancer or prevent early skin aging.
• Reapply sunscreens at least every two hours when outside.
• There is no difference in effectiveness, whether you use a cream, gel or spray. Parents generally prefer sprays to apply on children.
• Wear outside garments that have a SPF rating—the higher the better.
• Stay in the shade when possible.
• Use sunglasses with SPF ratings to protect your eyes.
• If you are prone to sunburn, stay inside 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. when the UV radiation is the highest.
• Wear a broad-brimmed hat.