What do your summer plans include? After taking a pandemic-related hiatus in 2020, art fairs, outdoor concerts, carnivals and more are back on.
If you’re planning on spending ample time outdoors over the next few months, be sure you take some basic precautions to keep yourself and those around you safe.
Water is your friend
No matter the weather, drinking water is important. But it becomes even more vital during the hot summer months. Water replenishes the fluids you lose when you sweat and even helps protect you against sun burns.
“Think of water like oil for a car’s engine,” said Michael Cole, M.D., an emergency medicine physician at Michigan Medicine. “And just like an engine with low oil, when we’re dehydrated, our bodies ‘run rough.’ We feel more fatigued and irritable, get muscle cramps and headaches, and if severe enough, kidneys and other organs begin to shut down.”
It’s important to realize that we often don’t feel thirsty until after we become dehydrated, Cole explained. “This is especially true as we get older.”
Rather than focusing on rehydration, Cole says to make “pre-hydration” a daily habit.
Since your body becomes dehydrated while you sleep, keep a full glass of water in the bathroom or next to your bed to drink as soon as you wake up. It’s “the best way to start your day,” Cole explained.
“Consider buying a time-marked water bottle. This has the times of the day marked on it to help guide you to consistently drink water throughout the day and prevent dehydration,” Cole said.
And remember that alcohol or sugary and/or caffeinated drinks could cause your body to actually become more dehydrated.
Skin damage is a major risk while outdoors because the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays are currently at their strongest.
Think of wearing a broad-brimmed hat and tight-knit, sun-protective clothing when it comes to summer outfit requirements. Be sure to also slather on sunscreen (at least an SPF-30 broad-spectrum product) and reapply it regularly.
And, if you plan on being outdoors for long periods of time, take some breaks in the shade, especially between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., when the sun’s rays are the strongest.
If you do get burned, treat the injured area as soon as possible by:
- Moisturizing your skin while it is still damp with aloe vera
- If the skin is blistered, let it heal on its own, as that’s your body’s natural way of protecting itself against further damage.
- Drink more water. The fluid in your body will automatically be used to help treat the burn, so be sure to replenish yourself so that you don’t become dehydrated.
- Take a cool shower. Once you’ve finished, you can keep your skin damp by just patting yourself dry.
- Try taking ibuprofen or acetaminophen to reduces some of the redness or swelling
Check your skin regularly
Sun burns aren’t the only danger of ultraviolet rays.
Over time, unprotected exposure to the sun can predispose you to skin cancer, which is the most common form of cancer in the United States, and accelerate aging.
So after a day outside, and at least once a month year-round, give your skin some well-deserved attention.
On your body “you don’t have to memorize each spot,” said U-M dermatologist and skin cancer expert Kelly B. Cha, M.D., Ph.D., “just get familiar with the types of spots you have so that you’ll spot an “ugly duckling” (a spot that doesn’t fit in with the rest) more easily.”
Once you get used to it, explains Cha, a thorough exam will take only a few minutes.
For additional helpful resources, Cha recommends checking out the Rogel Cancer Center’s Skin Cancer Screening Card: Be Smart About Your Skin, Know Your ABCDs and the UMSkinCheck app.
Be sure to have anything suspicious checked out, and consider having an annual skin check completed by your dermatologist or primary physician.
Know the warning signs of a heat-related illness
While out during the hot summer days, pay attention to how you or those around you are feeling.
Dizziness, nausea and headaches are often a sign of a heat-related illness, such as dehydration or a heat stroke. If you suspect any of those symptoms, get help immediately and call 9-1-1.
Monitor the weather
Although summer is typically tied to warmer and sunnier days, the weather from June to September can stray quickly.
Summer thunderstorms, lightning, flood and tornadoes can hit quickly. Plan ahead by following the news or your phone’s weather apps. Should a storm hit, immediately find shelter indoors and away from windows, if at all possible.