I don’t know about where you are, but here in Memphis, the weather is starting to really heat up. Heat, more than other elements, really makes me consider my own health. I think it has something to do with how uncomfortable it makes everything. Especially in the South, where the heat comes with that hot-and-sticky humidity.
Summer heat, for a lot of us, makes us of two minds. We either start thinking about beach vacations and cool drinks, or we start sweating and thinking about how unpleasant the yard work is about to get.
Regardless of what the heat makes us think of, there are critical steps we all have to take during the summer to protect our bodies from damage and illness due to sun exposure and elevated temperatures. As an endurance runner, I know just how brutal this time of year can be on the body, and it’s no joke.
Take these tips to heart and this season and protect yourself and your family.
6 Summer Health and Wellness Tips to Protect Your Family
1) Understand sunscreen.
Most of us know that we’re supposed to use sunscreen, but we don’t all do a good job of knowing how sunscreen actually works. Here are a few things you should know:
- Sunscreen expires. Make sure you use sunscreen that is in date for it to be effective at protecting you!
- Use a sunscreen that is a minimum 30SPF and broad spectrum so that it protects from both UVA and UVB rays. A water-resistant variety will help it last longer when swimming or sweating.
- Reapply every two hours.
- Remember: you must wait at least 15 minutes for sunscreen to absorb before it starts working. If you apply and immediately go into the sun, that’s time that you will not be protected.
- It’s important that you are generous with your sunscreen. Remember to reapply and hit those hard-to-reach spots like ears, back of your neck, and even your scalp. Wear a hat if you can.
- Remember, too, that SPF lip balm can protect your sensitive lips from the sun.
2) Stay hydrated.
Staying hydrated is a little more complicated than drinking an arbitrary 8 glasses of water a day. There are some things that you can do that may actually hinder your body’s ability to stay hydrated, particularly during the summer. Elevated temperatures mean more sweat which means a greater loss of hydration.
Avoid drinking too much alcohol or caffeine (even those refreshing iced coffees) because they’re both diuretics. This can cause you to lose more water than you’re consuming, which makes staying hydrated much more challenging.
The old rules about how much water one should drink in a day are also a bit outdated. Generally speaking, new advice says that you should drink half of your body weight in fluid ounces per day. You may need more or less depending on factors like heat and physical activity.
3) Take advantage of seasonal foods.
One of the great things about the summer season is access to great seasonal foods. While you can take advantage of fresh foods, do it! Buy small quantities of fresh, local produce from your farmer’s market and enjoy the nutritional that comes with it. Leafy greens, fruits, avocados, fermented vegetables make great summer options that all pack a nutritional punch your family can enjoy.
4) Use protective eyewear.
For children and adults alike, it’s critical to wear protective eyewear when going outdoors during the summer. Whether you’re in the car, doing yard work, at the pool, or on a run, you don’t want to risk damaging your eyesight or harming the delicate skin around your eyes. Remember, prescription sunglasses are cheaper now than ever, so even if you wear glasses, you can wear protective eyewear, too.
5) Get active as a family.
Summer is one of the best times to get outside and get moving as a family. While the rest of the year is so often tied up in activities, school, and work, there’s no better time to make room for exercise and family fun. Don’t let your family fall into the modern trap of staying indoors all summer. While the sun and heat come with dangers, a sedentary lifestyle is arguably more dangerous.
Now is the time to ride bikes, go to the pool, for family walks, and get moving together.
6) Know the signs of heat stroke.
If you’re not familiar with the signs of heat stroke, now is a great time to familiarize yourself with the symptoms so that you can recognize them in yourself or in others during the summer season. Heat stroke is one of the more serious things that may affect your health in summer, but it’s quite a common occurrence. Watch out for:
- Dry, red skin
- Lack of sweating
- Dizziness and fainting
- Confusion and disorientation
- Staggering or lack of coordination
If you or someone you know suffer heat stroke, you want to call 911 and then do your best to lower their core temperature. Move them to a cool location, place cool rags on their head and body, aim a fan in their direction, and get them to sip on water.
Heat stroke and heat exhaustion must be treated promptly.
Summer is one of the best seasons for getting healthy and active: whether it's enjoying a slew of outdoor activities or access to wonderful seasonal produce.
Take care that you're attentive and alert to your body's health throughout the summer season.