~ by Carol Vartuli
Summertime, and the livin' is easy. Or so the Gershwin song goes.
But easy doesn't mean living completely carefree. Longer days beckon us outdoors, exposing us to heavy doses of sun and heat. Add in physical exercise, and our bodies can dehydrate rapidly. Heat exhaustion - even heat stroke - are possible.
Fortunately, a little knowledge can help you roll out the lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer Nat King Cole crooned about in the '60s. (You remember, those days of soda, and pretzels - and beer!)
Heat exhaustion comes with a variety of warning signs: fatigue, nausea, dizziness, or fast, shallow breathing. Other signs might be muscle cramps, headache, or fainting.
When any of these sensations occur, get out of the sun or go indoors, and drink plenty of fluids. Drinking water throughout the day - even when you're not thirsty - is key. Once you feel thirst, your body is already dehydrated. Remember that coffee and tea, as well as alcohol, are dehydrating.
In addition to staying hydrated, there are other tips to avoid heat exhaustion:
- Plan outdoor activities at non-peak sun times.
- Enjoy exercises that involve water, like swimming or water aerobics.
- Stay indoors on extremely hot days. Enjoy that summer novel or mystery.
- Exercise indoors, at the gym, on a treadmill, or in an air-conditioned venue like a museum or mall where you can walk in comfort.
If left unchecked, heat exhaustion may lead to heat stroke, because body temperatures can quickly rise to dangerous levels. If you or a loved one have a temperature of 103 degrees, or greater, get medical help immediately. Other possible heat stroke indicators are rapid pulse, dizziness, or throbbing headache.
For peace of mind, keep an easy-to-remember emergency 'contact' programmed into your cell phone (HEAT, for example.) If you go out alone on a hot days, and tend to leave your phone at home, tell a friend or family member where you'll be.
Awareness of heat illness symptoms can keep you safe when temperatures climb. But the same atmospheric changes that are leading to more high-temperature days, are also yielding greater levels of solar radiation. Assault on our skin has become a much greater threat than it was 50 years ago. Wearing a UVA/UVB sunscreen can prevent the pain of sunburn, and the resulting damage that may lead to skin cancer.
Apply sunscreen often, and remind or help cognitively impaired friends or loved ones to do so.
Our eyes are also subject to damage from ultraviolet rays, which over time can result in cataracts, even eye cancer. In summer, the level of UV rays are at least three times stronger than in winter. Opthalmologists recommend wearing sunglasses that are at least 99 percent UV absorbent, as well as a brimmed hat.
Keep your sunshades, sunscreen and water bottle by the door, and don't forget to check the heat index for the day. Then, enjoy the lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer - safely.
You'll wish that summer could always be here.
The information in the above article is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.