September 9

Summer Health, Hazards and Safety

Summer Health

It's summer time! Time to bust out the umbrellas, tanning lotion, and… face masks?

As you might already know, summer this year is a little different. The current pandemic has affected millions of people worldwide. As a result, government officials have shut down amusement parks, beaches, and even malls to prevent further infection.

While staying at home and practicing social distancing might not be your ideal way to spend the summer, there is still one thing that remains constant: the weather.

If you’re looking to take advantage of the sun while it’s in season, here are several health opportunities and hazards you should know about.

Staying Fit

During these uncertain times, it can be tempting to just stay at home and let yourself go. After all, who’s going to be around to notice how you look? 

In reality however, it is quite the opposite. Studies show that obese individuals are more likely to develop severe cases of COVID19.

This means if you’re looking to keep yourself healthy, you’ll want to make sure you’re getting regular exercise. Besides keeping fit, it’ll also lower the risk of developing co-morbidities like diabetes, high blood pressure and stroke. 

Regular physical activity has also shown to positively influence mental and spiritual health. If you’re feeling anxious, going for a run is a great way to boost your mood.

However, you’ll want to be mindful of the weather. Direct sunlight can cause skin damage, and sweat doesn’t evaporate as quickly in humid conditions, which can lead to heat strokes and dehydration. 

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On the bright side (no pun intended), home workouts are simple. You don’t have to travel to the gym or pay a monthly membership. All the equipment you need is at your fingertips.

Push ups, sit-ups and lunges are good exercises for keeping yourself in shape. For those looking to build strength, investing in a pair of dumbbells can go a long way. You can even do yoga while watching a movie or tv show. 

Starting a new workout routine can be intimidating. But one good thing about the pandemic is that everyone is at home, not just you. That means there are tons of workout videos you can find online.

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Many fitness experts and coaches provide training videos and even guide you through the exercise in real time. Just make sure you’re listening to what your body says.

If there’s something you can’t do, or you feel you’ve reached your limit, don’t push yourself too hard. Remember that fitness experts spend years conditioning their body in order to achieve the flexibility and strength they have today.

Even if you’re not directly in the sun, home workouts can still pose health risks. If your home doesn’t have an air conditioning unit, you can still develop heat stroke or become dehydrated. Make sure the room you are in is cool and that you’re staying hydrated. Avoid exercising from 13 pm-6pm, as that’s when the sun is at its hottest.

Lightweight and moisture-wicking fabrics such as polyester, spandex, and nylon are great for home workouts. They’ll keep you cool and prevent heat stroke, as they’re designed to evaporate sweat at a faster rate.

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Now comes the big question: can you get Covid from running outside?

Running outdoors is considered a low-risk activity for virus transmission. So lace up your sneakers and run (or walk) with peace of mind, there’s nothing to fear except the occasional pile of dog poop!

If you’re looking to go for a run, we recommend doing so early in the morning. It’s the time of day you’re least likely to run into other people, and their beloved pets.

For those having trouble keeping cool, a little snack before or after your workouts can go a long way. Snacking on frozen fruits or fruit smoothies are a healthy way to keep your energy levels up and keep you frosty. If you’re fresh out of fruit, cold vegetable salads can also do the trick.

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The American Heart Association recommends 150 minutes a week, or approximately 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise 5 times a week. They also recommend adding strength training for at least 2 days each week.

As more companies and workplaces encourage their employees to work from home, it can be tempting to spend the day in front of a laptop or computer. Keep yourself active by getting regular exercise!

Eating Right

Exercise alone won’t keep you fit - a healthy diet is just as important. With the summer season in full effect, ice cold sugary drinks like chocolate smoothies, juices, energy drinks or soda can seem like the perfect way to cool off. 

However, these drinks actually increase your likelihood of becoming dehydrated. As water molecules are attracted to sugar, the more sugar-filled drinks you have, the more water you lose. Instead, opt for more healthy alternatives such as ice cold water, or sodas that contain little to no sugar. 

Lastly, despite what you may have heard, drinking alcohol does not prevent COVID19 infection. If you’re thinking of drowning away all your summertime sorrows, stick to something natural.

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There’s also a perk that comes with staying indoors: have you noticed it? With many public places closed down, more and more people are cooking at home. 

You’ll want to take this time to reinvent your diet and make a trip to the grocery store. Not only is it healthier than eating fast food, it also saves you money and allows you to monitor what you eat.

One way you can modify your diet is by creating variation. When you go to the grocery store, grab an assortment of fruits, vegetables, wheat, legumes, beans, dairy, fish and meat.

Your goal should be to create a meal with an assortment of different colors. Above all, avoid processed food - many of them contain unhealthy ingredients.

If you’re looking to lose weight, fiber-rich foods can help you to feel full. Your cravings for snacks will lessen, allowing you to shed off those pounds week after week!

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 However, it’s inevitable that you’ll find yourself getting the munchies. Instead of gorging on junk food, opt for healthier options such as nuts and fresh fruits. 

Avoiding fat and oils can be problematic, especially when almost everything contains it. Your goal shouldn’t be to avoid it completely - instead, you want to focus on replacing those bad oils with good oils. 

Poultry and fish are great meat choices because they have a lower fat content. If you use butter or lard, you can use avocado or coconut oil as alternatives for cooking. Remember, your body needs oil to function, so don’t cut it out of your diet completely!

As of now, there’s no specific food or dietary supplement that can prevent you from contracting the virus. However, you can increase your fighting chances if ever you do contract it,  by eating the right foods today.

Sleeping Better

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Having trouble sleeping? Your body might be too hot! When we go to sleep, our body temperature actually goes down in preparation for adequate sleep cycles. If you want to get a good night’s sleep, aim for a room temperature between 65 to 72°F

However, this is easier said than done. During the summer, overnight temperatures can soar.At temperatures lower or higher than the ideal range, your sleep becomes disrupted.

To solve this, we recommend sleeping in loose or light clothing, with an air conditioner to keep the room cool. Dark curtains and blankets can also help to block out heat during the daytime. For those looking to lower their body temperature fast, taking a cold shower before bed is a great habit to adopt.

During summertime, the temperature isn’t the only thing that changes. Days become longer as the sun rises earlier, and nights become shorter as the sun sets later. This affects your circadian rhythm, which controls when you wake up and go to sleep.

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To help your body adjust to these changes, we recommend getting that daily dose of sunlight early in the morning. Running outside in the morning is not just a good form of exercise, but also a way to expose yourself to sunlight earlier.

As a result, your body will become active during the day, and gradually transition to sleep mode around evening and nighttime. Once the sun sets, avoid blue lights such as those from laptops, phones and televisions. 

Lastly, hydration plays an important role in helping you sleep. Drink as much water as you can during the day, and avoid it completely 2 hours before bed. Don’t make the mistake of drinking too much water before going to bed, which can lead to nighttime bathroom trips.

Summer Hazards & Safety: The Do’s and Don'ts

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Skin damage

You might be thinking: since I’m going to be locked at home, I don’t have to worry about skin damage from the sun! In reality, this is a common misconception that people find out about the hard way.

Sunlight has 2 types of UV rays: UVA and UVB. UVA rays can pass through glass windows and are responsible for premature skin aging, such as wrinkles and liver spots. UVB rays are harmful to the skin, and are commonly associated with sunburns.

If you want to look young and healthy, ensure that you are not near any windows that face the sun. Many people place their work or study tables in front of a window to enjoy the view, not knowing such a beautiful scenery comes at a price.

However, that doesn’t mean you need to decide between your lush tropical landscape, and getting work done. If you enjoy having a window view, draw the shades when the sun is aimed directly at the window. You can also apply sunscreen on exposed areas of your body to mitigate the harmful rays from the sun.

DO:

  • Instead of tanning beds, we recommend the use of sunless tanning products. These are DHA-containing creams or lotions applied on the skin that can give you the appearance you desire, without the associated risks. Some sunless tanning products even contain sunscreens to protect your skin from harmful UVA and UVB rays. Just make sure to follow the product instructions and don’t apply it on your eyes, nose, ears and mouth.
  • If you’re feeling rebellious and planning on escaping your home for a visit to the beach, we recommend using sunscreen to protect your skin. For prolonged outdoor visits, you’ll want to re-apply it every 2 hours or longer, depending on the instructions on the bottle. Even if there’s clouds in the sky, you’ll still want to apply sunscreen, as ultraviolet rays can penetrate through them and harm your skin. 
  • In situations where you’ve forgotten to apply sunscreen, cover up with a hat or umbrella.  Also, look for make-up that contains built-in sunscreen. Some good choices are foundations, primers, and moisturizers that’ll protect your skin and keep you looking beautiful
  • Using tanning beds will damage your skin and make you prone to developing wrinkles and aging spots. Prolonged use can even lead to skin cancer, which can become a permanent condition. 

Cons

  • For those that are looking to work on their summer tan, we recommend sticking to the only natural light source you can find - the sun. You’ll want to avoid artificial sun sources such as tanning beds, as they come with many side effects.
  • According to the American Academy of Dermatology, a single artificial tanning session increases your risk of developing skin cancer by up to 67%.
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Eye Damage

Do you have blue, green, or hazel eyes? While they’re definitely a color that stands out, you may be shocked to learn that these colors are more prone to the damaging effects of the sun.

Excessive sun exposure can lead to eye damage such as cataracts, macular degeneration and age-related maculopathy - or ARM, which is a common cause of vision loss in elderly Americans. That’s why many experts recommend people wear sunglasses during the summer to protect their eyes.

The sun is more dangerous than you think. Without adequate protection, ultraviolet rays can pass through the eye’s cornea and damage it’s inner lens and retina. If you want to maintain your eyesight for years to come, here are a few tips on what you should do.

DO:

  • Wear sunglasses or a wide-brimmed hat when you go outside
  • Ensure your sunglasses are equipped with a UV filter, otherwise they’re not very effective
  • Tinting your car windows is also a good choice for those that can afford it. It’ll keep your car cool, and protect both your skin and eyes while driving.
  • For those that wear glasses, opt to have them created with a UV filter.
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Dehydration

Ever wonder why you get thirstier during the summer months? It’s all because of sweat. In hot weather, our bodies release sweat as a means to keep themselves cool. Excessive sweating can lead to dehydration, which is particularly risky for infants and the elderly. The more our bodies  sweat, the more water we lose. If you want to avoid becoming dehydrated, here are a few tips.

DO:

  • Drink water before, during, and after exercising.
  • During physical activity, a lot of water becomes lost due to sweating.
  • Keep yourself hydrated by taking small sips from time to time during workouts - you can even add a dash of lemon or cucumber for some flavor
  • Be on the lookout for symptoms of severe dehydration - these include light-headedness, dry cough, fatigue, flushed skin, and dark-colored urine or no urine output for hours. If you notice someone exhibiting such symptoms, get them to a cooler location and hydrate as soon as possible.

Cons

  • Avoid drinking too much caffeine, alcohol, and tea - especially if you’re using these beverages as a substitute for water. Caffeine is a diuretic, and drinking too much of it will only increase your fluid loss due to more frequent bathroom trips. Even if it’s served iced cold, it won’t quench your thirst as effectively as water will.
  • We recommend at least 6-8 glasses of water a day, however, remember that what you eat will also provide you with hydration. Thirst is your body’s way of letting you know you aren’t getting enough water. Try to drink before you feel thirsty, and always make sure you have water within reach.
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Heat Stroke

Heatstroke is another common hazard during the summer months. Normal body temperature is around 97-99°F; however, in instances of heatstroke, the body is at a temperature of 104 °F or higher. 

Heatstroke is considered as the gravest consequence of overheating, as your body temperature goes beyond what can be physiologically regulated. 

Unless the person is treated quickly, it can lead to life-threatening injuries such as permanent heart, brain, muscle and kidney damage. In a worst-case scenario, it can even lead to death.

The American Heart Association (2015) lists the following as signs and symptoms of heat stroke: fever (>104 °F ), hot and dry flushed skin, rapid but weak pulse, labored breathing, change in mental status and seizures. To prevent heatstroke, here’s what you should and shouldn’t do:

DO:

  • Make sure you are always hydrated.
  • If you see someone who looks like they may be suffering from heatstroke, place them in the shade or somewhere cool, call 911, and wipe them down with a wet cloth.
  • Never place them in ice or anything that is too cold - doing so can trigger seizures or cause shivering, which further increases their core temperature

Cons

  • Wear dark and thick clothing, as it promotes heat retention.
  • Don’t stay under the sun for long periods of time especially from 12noon to 3pm.
  • Avoid drinking too much alcohol, as it will dehydrate you further, which can lead to heat stroke.
  • When exercising, don’t push yourself too hard.

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summer, summer hazards, summer health, summer safety


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