Turning Up The Heat!

Who doesn’t enjoy being outdoors when the weather is great? Family barbecues, pool parties, sporting activities, even cutting the grass – it’s that much better when the sun is shining. Some caution does need to be applied though. Between the heat and exposure to strong UV (ultraviolet) rays, there are a variety of medical issues that can arise.

Dehydration

Your body becomes dehydrated when it doesn’t have the levels of water or fluids that it needs to stay healthy. This condition can lead to fainting, fatigue and weakness, light-headedness and nausea. Children in particular are more susceptible to dehydration because they sweat less, tend to overheat more, and rely on adults to make sure they drink enough.

Heat Related Illnesses

High levels of heat, made worse by dehydration, can cause a number of different physical ailments.

Heat Cramps – severe and painful muscular cramping.

Heat Exhaustion – not life threatening, but will require medical attention. This is characterized by fatigue & weakness, nausea, muscle cramps, confusion, slowed heartbeat, fainting, sweating and cold skin.

Heat Stroke – very serious condition that requires immediate medical attention. Symptoms include nausea, fainting, dizziness, shortness of breath, hot skin & increased temperature, rapid heart rate, decreased sweating, confusion and convulsions.

Skin Cancer

Our skin is our largest organ and it protects us from many things. Unfortunately cancers of the skin are the most common, with millions of cases being identified every year in North America alone. There are different types, each of which has its own characteristics, but all should be taken very seriously.

Skin cancer is caused by prolonged exposure to the sun’s dangerous UV rays, and you’re at higher risk if you have pale skin, have a family history of skin cancer, have had previous severe sunburns, have numerous moles or are taking certain medications. Early visual detection and consultation with your doctor is the key to effective treatment.

What You Can Do

Most of the issues that result from too much heat and sun exposure can be prevented by following some common safety practices.

  • The most obvious way to avoid heat and sun related issues is to seek shade or schedule your activities for cooler times of the day. Try and avoid direct sunlight or over-exertion during the hottest part of the day (10:00AM – 4:00PM).
  • Dress appropriately and cover as much exposed skin as possible in light, tightly woven fabrics
  • Wear a hat that has a brim all around to protect the scalp, face ears and neck
  • The use of UV-blocking sunglasses is important to protect the eyes and the skin around them. Wrap-around styles are best because they provide greater coverage.
  • Use sunscreen and lip balm in generous amounts and re-apply often, especially if you’ve been swimming or sweating heavily. Use a broad-spectrum, water resistant type that protects against both UVA and UVB rays and with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or higher.
  • Stay well hydrated by drinking plenty of cool water throughout your time in the heat. Water is best for fluid replenishment as it absorbs into your system more quickly, as opposed to a sugary beverage. Engineered sports drinks are best used after your activity to replace carbohydrates and electrolytes.
  • Avoid drinking alcohol in extreme heat, as it acts as a diuretic and can speed dehydration
  • Take the same precautions on cloudy days as you would on sunny ones. UV rays can penetrate clouds and still cause skin damage.
  • Avoid the use of tanning beds and sun lamps, as they generate the same damaging UV radiation that the sun does
  • Pay close attention to how you’re feeling when temperatures rise. Take a break, find some shade and hydrate if you feel overheated or light-headed.
  • Keep an eye on the kids when they’re in the sun, as they tend to spend more time outdoors, burn more easily and will be less concerned by the risks
  • Seek immediate medical attention if you lose consciousness due to the heat or experience extreme skin damage or blistering from sun exposure

Enjoy your time outdoors, but remember not to take chances with daytime sun and heat. It doesn’t take much to cross the line between feeling comfortable to being in real trouble.

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