There’s a lot to do when the weather is right: family picnics, a homerun derby on the softball field, endless hours on the golf course, or lounging in your backyard hammock.
However, too much fun in the sun can be dangerous. Excessive heat exposure can cause dehydration. Dehydration, in turn, can cause dangerous conditions, such as:
- heat cramps
- heat exhaustion
- heat stroke, which is also called sunstroke
Combating the toll of the heat and sun on your body will keep you healthy and active all summer long. Try a few of these simple precautions, and you’ll still be going strong as the leaves start to turn.
The way you dress can go a long way toward keeping you comfortable when you’re outside in the heat. Make sure you bring the following items:
The right type of clothing
A loose white linen shirt 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.
Cotton is another good fabric to opt for in the heat.
Choose light colors over darker ones if your primary goal is staying cool.
There’s a difference between the type of clothing that keeps you cool in the heat and the type of clothing that keeps you protected from ultraviolet (UV) rays.
If protection from the sun is your goal, choose dark or bright colors instead of white or pastels. They absorb more heat, which prevents the rays from penetrating your skin.
Dry clothes are more protective than wet clothes. Tightly woven clothes, or synthetic fibers, such as polyester and rayon, provide more sun protection than loosely woven clothes.
You can even take it one step further and invest in sun-protective clothing. Sun-protective fabric uses special dyes and chemicals to block harmful UV rays.
Sun-protective items, like clothing, are given an ultraviolet protection factor (UPF) rating based on how much UV radiation they allow to penetrate the skin.
If a product has a UPF of 15, around 6.7 percent (or 1/15) of the sun’s rays will reach you.
A UPF rating of 15 is generally considered good. However, an item must have a UPF of at least 30 to receive the Skin Cancer Foundation’s Seal of Recommendation.
Sunglasses are chic and functional. They prevent UV rays from scorching your corneas and will protect your eyes for many more summers to come.
According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, you should pick sunglasses that block 99 to 100 percent of UVA and UVB rays.
A hat is a smart and practical summer fashion choice. Throwing on a wide-brimmed hat prevents UV rays from hitting the sensitive spots on your face, and it keeps your skin looking wrinkle-free.
The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends that brims and brills be at least 3 inches wide (or 2.5 inches for babies and toddlers).
Nothing knocks good days off a summer calendar like a nasty sunburn. When outdoors, use sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30. Use a higher-rated, waterproof sunscreen if you’ll be poolside or out on the beach.
Some ingredients that may be particularly effective against sun damage and burns include:
- titanium dioxide
Don’t forget to cover areas that burn easily: the nose, ears, shoulders, and back of the neck.
Just like how sunscreen protects the rest of your skin, a lip balm with SPF protection blocks out the sun and keeps in moisture for your lips — great for a day on the lake or while you’re working on that summer romance.
The heat makes you sweat, which cools you down. However, that also means you’re constantly losing fluid.
Here’s how to stay hydrated:
Sip water throughout the day
Don’t wait until you’re thirsty! Drink water throughout the day to prevent dehydration or over exhaustion.
Use the color of your urine to guide whether you’re hydrated enough — the clearer, the better.
Choose sugar-free juice
All-natural juice without added sugar not only provides hydration, but it also has important nutrients to keep you active and nourished in hot weather. Vitamin C is just one of them.
Check the label on the juice bottle and make sure it says “100 percent juice with no sugar added.”
While an ice-cold cocktail — complete with a little paper umbrella — might sound good on the beach, it won’t be as refreshing to your body. That’s because alcohol only dehydrates you more.
If you can’t barbecue without a brew, drink a bottle of water between each alcoholic beverage to stay hydrated.
Like alcohol, caffeine also has a reputation for being dehydrating. However, caffeine should be fine to consume in moderate amounts, even in the heat.
Did you know?
Coffee may be just as hydrating as water, at least according to a small
2014 studyof male coffee drinkers.
The study was split into short two trials. In one trial, the participants received nearly 3.5 cups of coffee a day. In the other trial, they received water.
At the end of the study, the researchers didn’t observe any significant differences in metrics that would signal dehydration, such as total body water or 24 hour urine volume.
The food you eat can also help you stay cool. Try adjusting your diet so that it includes the following:
Fruits and vegetables are easy to digest and often high in water content. Salads and other dishes rich in seasonal produce will keep you feeling light and hydrated, too.
Hydrating foods and beverages include:
Popular in warm climates, the tingling feeling and accompanying sweat caused by eating spicy foods has a purpose: The sweat actually cools your body down.
A little cayenne pepper or salsa can add a lot of flavor to any meal.
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. Consuming too much salt also increases your risk for dehydration.
If you eat meat, choose low-fat versions (like chicken breast) in the summer.
Avoid peak hours of sunlight when the temperatures and UV rays are at their highest, normally between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. That’s the best time to head inside, get food and water, let your body cool down, and maybe even take a nap.
When heat and humidity are at their highest, it’s never a bad time to take a break. Watersports are especially tricky, because you can easily become overheated without realizing it.
When in doubt, take a breather.
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.
If you must be outside, keep your activities close to a shady spot. It can provide enough of a cooldown to keep you safe. Even a small drop in temperature can make a big difference.
When it’s hot, and you’re active, stay 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.