Now that it looks like summer in America has FINALLY arrived, the big trick for so many of us who live in the hotter parts of the country this time of year is to stay healthy while enjoying the warmer weather and freedom that summer brings. Yes, it is great to get outside in the sunshine and wear as few clothes as possible, but in warmer temperatures, heat related injuries are not uncommon. They are, however, almost completely preventable. Here’s some ideas to keep from making a trip to the emergency room:
Do strenuous activity and exercise in the early morning hours or after dark, and yes, this does mean walking the dogs. Any sort of activity involving sweat, and a length of time outside is best done when the temperatures are the coolest, and the sun has the least chance of doing damage. It keeps the sweat to a minimum and lessens the chances of overheating, and it is the same with kids and dogs. If you have to work in the heat outdoors, take frequent breaks in the shade, and if you start to feel sick to your stomach or get a headache, go to a cooler place and get some rest. (This might seem like a no-brainer for humans anyway, but a friend who is a veterinarian once told of a big dog who died after its owner took it on a hike on a 100 degree day.)
Wear light, loose clothing in cotton, linen, or cooling fibers. Yes it is true that tight and black is all the rage these days, but when it’s hot, binding clothes trap heat close to the body. Dark clothing also absorbs heat. Lighter clothing reflects it to an extent. Looser clothing lets the air flow. And ladies, skirts let air in that shorts don’t.
Learn to LOVE sunhats with brims. Back in the day, when pale was the goal of every woman and sunscreen had not been invented, the ladies and gentlemen wore hats to keep the sun off of their faces. The idea was to limit tans and burns. There are a number of styles and fabrics available in sunhats. Wearing one provides shade not just for your face, but ears and neck as well.
When out in the sun for long periods, use sunscreen. This should be another no-brainer, but everyone forgets every now and then. For people who are worried about the toxins in regular sunscreen, there are brands available that use zinc oxide as a ray-blocker. (They tend to be more expensive, but work better.) If sunscreen is not for you, long sleeves in a cool fabric, or complete shade is a must, and with small children, consider investing in a shade shelter that can be put up at soccer games and at the beach.
Drink water, and lots of it. Water is essential at any time of year for human life, but most so when we are sweating it due to the heat. It is recommended that people who spend a lot of time moving around outdoors in the heat drink 3-4 quarts a day. Sport drinks, like Gatorade, are usually necessary only if one is exercising excessively or at competitive levels. Remember that caffeine and alcohol are actually diuretics and intake should be kept to a minimum in the heat.
Never, ever leave children or pets in a car with the windows closed. This shouldn’t happen ever anyway, but especially not during the summer. Temperatures in a locked car can be considerably hotter than the outdoors.
Eat lighter food with good water content. Summer is the season of fresh fruits and veggies. Take advantage of these foods being in season, taste the goodness, and get some vitamins and minerals all at the same time!
Try to avoid using the oven. Especially in a brick house that is in and of itself an oven. Summer is the season of grilling. A good grill is a solid investment that will pay for itself in lower air-conditioning costs for years.
If you are taking medication or are pregnant, consult your doctor about the proper precautions. Heat can be detrimental to a number of different health concerns. Most physicians are pro-active in advising their patients when it comes to heat. If you are unsure of instructions, do not hesitate to ask.
In addition, remember that kids and dogs cannot always speak for themselves, and be sure that they are kept cool during the heat of the afternoon. (Yes, it is normal for dogs to find every spot in the house where air conditioning vents hit the floor.) There are, of course, many tips and tricks to keeping cool, including keeping shades closed in the house, and taking short showers so long as dizziness is not an issue.