Summer Safety : Fun in the Sun

Summer is my absolute favorite time of year. I love the hot weather, the constant sunshine, and the endless opportunities for fun outside. Since I have become a parent, I have spent a lot more time considering how to enjoy summer safely than I did when I had only myself to worry about.  Sun and heat are two of the biggest safety issues to consider when planning summer activities.

Skin cancer has been in the news for many years now, and information about how to protect yourself and your children is plentiful. Additionally, there are countless sun protection products on the market to help keep you safe in the sun. What’s the best option, though? There are so many products on the market that making a choice can be overwhelming. Here are some points to consider:

  • SPF rating and UVA/UVB protection
  • Chemical or mineral…which are you more comfortable with?
  • What kind of activity are you doing in the sun…do you need a waterproof sunscreen?
  • Who are you applying sunscreen to…you may make a very different purchase for yourself than you do for a baby or young child.
  • When should you apply sunscreen? Most directions suggest applying sunscreen at least 15 minutes before sun exposure.
  • Is there such a thing as too much sunscreen and not enough sun? Does avoiding sun exposure or going outdoors only while wearing sunscreen lead to vitamin D deficiencies?

Considering these points may make your decision even harder! Refer to this interesting article by the Environmental Working Group for more information: Sunscreens Exposed: Nine Surprising Truths.

Another option for sun safety is SPF clothing. Rash guards and long-sleeved/long-pants swimwear are readily available. My own children wore what looked like a diving suit for their first few summers. Some outdoor equipment stores also offer SPF-rated dress shirts and slacks. Check out the offerings from Coolibar and REI.

Not only must you consider protecting your skin in the sun, but you also must consider protecting your overall health. Prolonged exposure to sun and hot weather can lead to heat exhaustion or heat stroke, both of which are dangerous conditions. Take these precautions:

  • Drink plenty of cool, non-alcoholic fluids
  • Wear loose clothing and a hat
  • Limit your time outside when the temperature and/or humidity is especially high
  • If you must exercise in hot weather, drink two to four glasses of a cool, non-alcoholic beverage hourly
  • If you sweat excessively, replace salts and minerals by drinking fortified beverages such as Gatorade.

Watch for these symptoms:

  • High body temperature along with red, dry skin (not sweating)
  • Rapid pulse
  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Cramps
  • Fainting

Infants and young children, elderly, and overweight people are more susceptible to heat stroke and heat exhaustion. Also, some prescription medications, such as those for depression, insomnia, or poor circulation may make a person more susceptible to heat stroke and heat exhaustion. For more information, refer to this CDC article about extreme heat.

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