There's a lot to do when the weather is right: family picnics, working on your tan at the beach, a homerun derby on the softball field, endless hours on the golf course, or lounging in the backyard hammock. Unfortunately, too much fun in the sun can be dangerous; excessive heat exposure can cause dehydration, which in turn can cause dangerous conditions like heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke (also called "sunstroke").
No matter what your plans are this summer, you won't want to miss any of them. Combating the toll that heat and sun can have on your body will keep you healthy and active all summer long. Heed a few of these practical and simple precautions, and you'll still be going strong as the leaves start to turn.
What to Wear
Loose, light clothes: The white linen shirt every male movie star wears on a beach isn't just fashionably conscious; it's also intelligent for hot, sunny days. Dark clothing absorbs more heat, and tight clothes don't let sweat – your body's natural cooling system – evaporate.
Sunglasses: They're chic and functional. Sunglasses prevent harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays from scorching your corneas and protect your eyes for many more summers to come. Choose sunglasses that block 90 to 100 percent of UV rays.
Hats: Unlike 8-inch high heels at the beach, a hat is smart summer fashion. Throwing on a wide-brimmed hat while soaking up the sun prevents UV rays from hitting the sensitive spots on your face and keeps your skin looking young and wrinkle-free.
Sunscreen: Nothing knocks good days off a summer calendar like a nasty sunburn. Use sunscreen with an SPF rating of at least 15 when outdoors. Use a higher-rated, waterproof sunscreen if you'll be poolside or out on the beach. Don't forget to cover areas that burn easily: nose, ears and back of the neck. For more on sunscreens, check out our guide to choosing the right sunscreen.
Lip Balm: The way sunscreen protects the rest of your skin, a lip balm with SPF protection blocks out the sun and keeps in moisture for your lips, perfect for a day on the lake or while you're working on that summer romance.
What to Drink
Water: And even more water. The heat makes you sweat, which cools you down, but also means you're constantly losing water. Don't wait until you're thirsty; drink water throughout the day to prevent dehydration or overexhaustion. Use the color of your urine to guide if you're hydrated enough – the clearer the better.
Juices: All natural juice without added sugar not only provides hydration but also important nutrients to keep you functioning while being active in hot weather.
Limit Alcohol: While an ice cold cocktail – complete with little paper umbrella – might sound good on the beach, it won't be as refreshing to your body because alcohol only dehydrates you more. If you can't barbecue without a brew, drink a bottle of water between each adult beverage to stay hydrated.
Limit Caffeine: Like alcohol, caffeine sucks the moisture out of you. On hot days, avoid it as much as possible, especially when combined with alcohol.
What to Eat
Fruits & Vegetables: Watermelons are aptly named; they are 92 percent water. Fruits and vegetables are easy to digest and often high in water content, so salads and other dishes rich in seasonal produce will keep you feeling light and hydrated.
Spicy Foods: Popular in warm climates, the tingling feeling and accompanying sweat caused by spicy foods has a purpose; the sweat actually cools your body down.
Low-Fat Meats: Fat takes longer for your body to digest and carries a higher salt content, which can add extra strain on your body when you need it maximized for efficiency.
When to Stay Out of the Sun
Midday: Avoid peak hours of sunlight when the temperatures and UV rays are at their highest, which are normally between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. That's the best time to head inside, get some food, some water, let your body cool down, and maybe sneak in a nap. Get a few hours of rest during the middle of the day and your body will thank you later.
Every Once In a While: When heat and humidity are at their highest, it's never a bad time to take a break. Water sports are especially tricky because you can easily become overheated without realizing it. When it doubt, take a breather.
Where to Hide
Inside: If you live in an area where summer heat can become dangerous, pay close attention to any heat-related warnings. When it's dangerous, stay inside with the A/C or fan going. If it's not cool enough at home, find a cooling station, usually set up at public libraries and other buildings.
Shade: If you must be outside, keep your activities close to a shady spot. It can provide enough of a cool down to keep you safe. Even a small drop in temperature can make a big difference.
Within Reach of Relief: When it's hot and you're active, make sure to be close to restaurants, convenience stores, or any other place that can offer cold temperatures and beverages should you need them in an emergency. If you're at the beach or pool, the cool water offers great relief from the heat.