Shannon Linberg, ACSM-EP
The sun is finally coming out after a very long winter, and all of us are itching to get outside and enjoy this warm weather. But it is important to take a second and remember how to be safe in the sun and heat. It takes away from the fun when we are left burnt, dehydrated, and overheating, so let’s go over a few ways to protect ourselves and ensure maximum enjoyment in these warm months.
We should start with the basic summer staple: sunscreen! Whether we prefer the sprays or the lotions, mineral-based or chemical based, it is important to keep it applied throughout our day outside. Depending on your sensitivity to the sun, sunburn can lead to sun poisoning and eventually even skin cancer. A study done to determine when sunscreen should be reapplied found that we should stick to waterproof/water-resistant sunscreens, and we should “…apply sunscreen liberally to exposed sites 15 to 30 minutes before going out into the sun, followed by reapplication of sunscreen to exposed sites 15 to 30 minutes after sun exposure begins. Further reapplication is necessary after vigorous activity that could remove sunscreen, such as swimming, toweling, or excessive sweating and rubbing.’’ (Diffey, 2001) Applying it well and often is the best way to stay protected!
It is important to listen to our body. We should not push ourselves too far beyond our limits and know when we need a break or to call it a day. Overexerting ourselves in the heat can lead to a series of issues including heat exhaustion and even heat stroke. “Heat exhaustion is the inability to continue activity because of environmental conditions, and is postulated to be caused by a central mechanism that protects the body in times of overexertion.” (Becker & Stewart, 2011)
The symptoms of heat exhaustion include diarrhea, dizziness, headache, irritability, loss of coordination, nausea/vomiting, syncope (loss of consciousness), weakness, and tachycardia (an abnormally rapid heartbeat), among other clinical signs. This means that if we do not listen to the signals that our body is sending us, our body might force us to take a break in a much less enjoyable way.
According to an article about heat-related illnesses, “classic heat stroke often develops slowly over days. It predominantly occurs in older persons and those with chronic illness. Exertional heat stroke has a more rapid onset and is associated with higher core temperatures. It generally occurs in young, healthy persons and is characterized by hot skin with or without sweating and central nervous system alterations.” (Becker & Stewart, 2011) It is very important to make sure that we are taking care of ourselves, especially when outside in the heat.
Symptoms to watch for include confusion, dizziness, hallucination, headache, nausea/vomiting, syncope (loss of consciousness), hot skin with or without perspiration (sweat), tachycardia (an abnormally rapid heartbeat), and possible seizures. We want to make sure we don’t make it to the emergency of a heat stroke! Heat stroke requires immediate medical intervention and can be life-threatening. Staying hydrated can help to prevent these heat-related illnesses and keep us on our feet, so try not to stray too far from our water bottles while in the heat!
In conclusion, we need to protect our not only our skin from the sun and heat but also our whole body. The warmer weather can lift our spirits but we need to take our health in the heat seriously, and keep ourselves safe so that we can enjoy the sun as often as possible. Let’s stay mindful and safe, and have a wonderful start to our summer!
Becker, J. A., & Stewart, L. K. (2011). Heat-Related Illness. American Family Physician, 1325-1330.
Diffey, B. L. (2001). When should sunscreen be reapplied. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, 882-885.