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Healthy Living: Summer means sun, fun, and safety

By Jody Holton

Whether your summer is filled with frequent trips to the beach, river, lake, hiking, camping, fishing, or just hanging loose at the local pools or parks, remember – don’t overdo it.  Overexposure to the sun and heat can be dangerous.  Don’t put a dent in your summer fun with an unexpected trip to the ER or the doctor at the very least.

On average, heat waves kill more people each year in the United States than any other natural disaster. And one American dies every hour from skin cancer, the most common type of cancer in the United States, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.  Baking is for bread, not humans.

At your home, to help combat the double-whammy of heat waves and the sun, the EPA suggests planting trees, shrubs, and vines near buildings to provide cooling shade and protection from ultraviolet rays.  Helps cut that summer cooling bill too.

The agency also offers the following summer safety tips:

Stay hydrated and wear lightweight, light-colored, and loose-fitting clothing to protect your skin from harmful UV radiation. Also, wear a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses.

Apply sunscreen with an SPF 15 or higher about 30 minutes before you go outside and reapply every two hours. Check the sun’s UV index before you go outside.  Remember that sunscreen is not a once and done application.

If you’re outside during the sun’s peak hours between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., try to stay in shade.

Better yet, in the heat of the day, take a break.  It’s a great time to relax, refuel for more fun to come.

Remind others, particularly the elderly, to be safe in the sun and heat. Monitor them for signs of heat illness, which can include hot and dry skin, confusion, hallucinations and aggression.  If you have elderly neighbors, you see their home is closed up tight and you don’t see or hear air conditioning running, check on them.

Never, EVER, leave kids, pets, or even adults with limited mobility sitting in the car while you run in to take care of business.  Even with windows down, heat can reach dangerous levels in just 2 minutes.

Check the air quality. High ozone levels on hot summer days can make the air unhealthy to breathe.  This is especially dangerous for children and adults with asthma and/or COPD.

Have fun in the sun, but remember safety first!

Jody Holton, Marketing Director YMCA of Southeast Texas. jholton@ymcasetx.org