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Whether you plan on spending all day, a few hours, or even just a few moments outside, staying healthy and comfortable this summer should be your top priority. It’s important to protect yourself and your family from the heat and sun whether you are outside to work or to play.

Sun Exposure

Summer means longer days with more intense sunlight. It’s important to protect yourself from the damaging UV rays of the sun. Covering up with clothing, wearing sunscreen, and staying out of the direct sunlight when possible are good ways to start. Many people include sun protection as part of their summer routine, but fall victim to many myths:

  • It’s cloudy so I won’t get a sunburn. It’s still possible to get a sunburn on an overcast day, as some UV radiation still gets through clouds.
  • I didn’t get a sunburn, so I’m okay. The sun creates two dangerous types of rays – UVA and UVB. While UVB is mostly responsible for sunburns and cancers, UVA rays penetrate deeply and make the carcinogenic effects of UVB worse. Even if you didn’t burn, there might have been some damage.
  • Certain skin types are safe from sun damage. Just because you don’t burn or have darker skin doesn’t mean that you’re immune to damage or even skin cancer from UV rays.
  • I applied sunscreen. I’ll be safe. Like any safety tool, there are proper ways to use sunscreen to make sure it works best to protect you. Use lots of sunscreen – a few ounces should be used in each application to cover up. Apply sunscreen 30 minutes before going in the sun, and reapply every 2 hours, after swimming, or after sweating a lot. No sunscreen is entirely effective, but the higher the Sun Protection Factor (SPF) rating, the more UV it will block. A minimum of SPF 30 should be used if you spend any time outside.

Heat and Hydration

On a hot summer day, people are more susceptible to dehydration, heat exhaustion, or even heat stroke.

Drinking water and taking time to cool off is not only important for your comfort but your health. Knowing the signs of these emergencies and how to prevent them will give you a healthier summer.

Dehydration can result in headaches, thirst, and dizziness in mild cases, but can be dangerous when allowed to progress. On hot days spent outside, people perspire more than normal. Make sure that you drink enough water to replace the fluids lost. This can mean drinking much more than you would on cooler days. Plan to bring lots of extra water with you for outdoor activities or events that might include alcohol consumption.

Heat Exhaustion and heat cramps are early stages of the body overheating. Heat exhaustion can involve headaches, dizziness, faintness, nausea, muscle cramping, and clamminess. Catching these symptoms early and finding a way to rest, rehydrate, and cool off is essential. Unchecked heat exhaustion can lead to much more dangerous cases of heat stroke.

Heat Stroke is what happens when the body overheats a dangerous amount. People experiencing heat stroke will show many of the signs of heat exhaustion, but may be lethargic, confused, not acting themselves, and have a racing heart rate. Heat stroke is an emergency that requires care immediately.

Other summer activities come with their own risks. Make sure you stay informed and safe while having fun this summer.

For the Canadian Red Cross’ guidelines on water safety start here.

Start here for Parks Canada outdoor safety tips, or here for Parks Canada info on staying safe around wildlife.

Summer is a fun time to spend outside enjoying the weather. Protect yourself while enjoying the outdoors to keep you and your family healthy and safe during our hot season.