Heat and UV Safety Tips

Don’t get bitten by the dog days of summer.

Gardening, bike rides, ball games, beach trips … summertime certainly has its perks. Unfortunately, all of summer’s outdoor activities come with the unwelcome risks of heat exhaustion, heat stroke and damaging UV rays. Our ER sees dozens of heat-related cases every summer — but we’d really rather not. So with some simple planning and preventive steps, you can minimize the risks and maximize your fun in the sun.

Heat Exhaustion & Heat Stroke

Humidity, heat and insufficient water can all raise your body’s core temperature. When that happens, you may notice:
– Heavy sweating
– Rapid pulse
– Light-headedness
– Headache
– Dizziness
– Clammy skin or goosebumps

These are the symptoms of heat exhaustion. Unless you take quick action, your body’s core temperature could reach 104 degrees and leave you in the vulnerable position of feeling confused. Those two signs indicate an even more dangerous condition: heat stroke.

If you begin to notice any of the symptoms of heat exhaustion:
– Get into the shade or (better yet) air conditioning
– Drink plenty of cool, non-alcoholic fluids
– Loosen clothing to better allow heat to escape

Of course, it’s better to prevent heat exhaustion and heat stroke than it is to treat it. So to help avoid these conditions:
– Drink 8-12 ounces of water each hour
– Wear light, breathable clothing

Remember, too, that because babies, toddlers and the elderly have a harder time regulating their body temperatures, they’re more susceptible to heat and humidity. So make sure they stay hydrated and avoid direct sun as much as possible. Offer younger children water every 10 minutes, and if a baby or toddler begins to act fussy, get them out of the heat quickly.

UV Rays

Especially in western Pennsylvania where they seem so rare, we treasure our sunny days. But we also know that too much sun has its own hazards — namely, ultraviolet (UV) rays. You’ve probably noticed that sunscreens and sunglasses promote protection against UVA and UVB, but what’s the difference between the two?

UVA rays penetrate deep into skin layers and can cause long-term skin damage. They’re present all day, every day, and can even pass through window glass. UVB rays, on the other hand, can’t pass through window glass. While they help the body make vitamin D, they’re also the main culprits behind sunburn, skin cancer, and eye conditions like cataracts and macular degeneration.

So while sunny days are there for you to savor, here are some tips for National UV Safety Month to make sure you’re protected from harmful UV rays:
– Apply “broad-spectrum” SPF 30 or higher sunscreen 15-30 minutes before you go in the sun
– Reapply often when swimming, even if you’re using a “waterproof” sunscreen
– Seek out shade from 10 am to 4 pm when UVB rays are at their most intense
– Wear a wide-brimmed hat and tightly woven (light blocking) clothing
– Choose sunglasses that block both UVA and UVB rays
– Don’t forget your lips! Use a lip balm of SPF 30 or higher

By following these simple steps for heat and UV safety, you can enjoy more of everything that summer has to offer. Weather permitting, of course.