Some Reminders about Extreme Heat and Sun Safety

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Some Reminders about Extreme Heat and Sun Safety

 Some Reminders About Extreme Heat and Sun Safety 


              With the summer now seemingly in full swing warm temperatures are now upon us! There are many risks to extreme heat and the sun. Here are a few reminders and tips for staying safe in these conditions. 

Extreme Heat 

              Hot temperatures can be extremely dangerous. These temperatures are especially dangerous if you have things like breathing difficulties, health problems, hypertension (high blood pressure), kidney problems, mental illness such as depression or dementia, Parkinson’s disease or if you take medication for any of these conditions. If you are taking medication or have any sort of health condition make sure to consult your doctor or pharmacist to see if your health risk is increased in the extreme heat and follow their recommendations. 

Preparing for the Heat 

Preparing for the heat is a major part of successfully navigating an extremely warm day. If you are someone who requires assistance make sure you arrange regular visits by either friends or family. If you own an air conditioner make sure it actually works before the hot weather is upon you! Not everyone has air conditioning and if this is the case find a place close by where you can cool off for a few hours during extremely hot days. This will help you cope with the heat a little bit better! 

Another way to prepare to beat the heat is to keep your home or residence cool. If you have an air conditioner with a thermostat keep it set to the highest comfortable setting, somewhere between 22oC and 260C. This will help reduce some of your energy costs and still provide needed relief from the extreme heat. If you are using a window insert air conditioner try and only cool one room where you can go for heat relief. It is recommended to prepare meals that don’t require the use of an oven, while also closing all blinds, curtains or awnings to block the sun out. If it is safe open your windows at night to let cooler air into your home. 

If your home or residence happens to get extremely hot here are a few tips for trying to beat the heat. Spend a few hours in a cool place like a mall, a tree shaded area, a swimming facility, a grocery store, or a place of worship or public library. Take cool showers or baths until you feel refreshed. Use a fan to help you stay cool and aim the air flow in your direction. 

Staying Cool While Outside 

When outdoors there are a few other approaches you can take to staying cool and protecting yourself and your loved ones. First never ever leave people or pets parked inside a  vehicle or direct sunlight. When outside air temperature is 23oC the temperature inside a vehicle can be higher than 50oC. You can also try and plan your activities around the extreme heat which usually peaks mid-day. Before you head out for the day check the air quality health index (AQHI) in your area, air pollution tends to be higher on very hot days. 

While outdoors avoiding excessive sun exposure is very important. Shade yourself by wearing a wide brimmed, breathable hat or by using an umbrella. Tree shaded areas could be as much as 5oC cooler than the surrounding area. If the UV index is 3 or higher, protect your skin as much as possible by wearing long sleeved shirt and pants or sunscreen. When buying sunglasses make sure they protect against both UVA and UVB rays. Limit your time in the sun, when your shadow is shorter than you the sun is very strong! 

What Can Happen? 

Heat illness is another side effect of the extreme heat. Heat illness includes heat stroke, heat exhaustion, heat training, heat edema (the swelling of the hands, feet and ankles), heat rash and heat cramps (muscle cramps). Heat illnesses can affect you quickly and are mainly caused by over exposure to the heat or over exertion. 

              Heat illness is no joke, pay close attention to how you and in turn, those around you feel. Watch for the symptoms of heat illness. These include, dizziness or fainting, nausea or vomiting, headache, rapid breathing and heartbeat, extreme thirst (dry mouth), and decreased urination (usually appearing dark yellow). 

              If heat illness is suspected you must cool the person right away. Try doing this by moving them to a cool or cooler place if you can and providing them with cool liquids, water is best. Also applying cold water to large areas of the skin or clothing and fanning the person as much as possible can be effective as well. 

              The best prevention is being proactive so drink plenty of cool liquids especially water. Do this before you feel thirsty to decrease you risk of dehydration. Remind yourself to drink water by leaving a glass by the sink. Flavoring the water with some natural fruit juice or other flavorings might make it more appealing. Eat more fruits and vegetables as they have lots of natural water, and remember if you eat less you might have to drink more! 

Sun Safety 

              One of the other factors about being outdoors in the extreme heat is the SUN! It emits UV or Ultra Violet rays that are harmful to our skin. Water, sand and concrete can increase the effect of UV rays as well you still need to protect yourself on cloudy days as clouds do not stop these rays. Remember that children learn best by example so model appropriate sun protection yourself. Tanning equipment will damage your skin and should try and be avoided. Sunless tanning products like bronzers are an alternative to tanning and come in different forms. While these products may give you a wonderful glow, they do not offer any UV protection. You still need to practice proper sun safety when using these products.   

Sun Screen 

              So what can we do? The answer is simple, Sunscreen! Protect your health by using a broad – spectrum sunscreen with a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of at least 30. The Broad – Spectrum blocks out most of the UVA and UVB rays. Make sure the sunscreen is water resistant, and always follow the instructions on the product label. Always use the recommended amount of sunscreen and re apply it often around every 2 hours while outside, and be sure to cover exposed areas generously. Sunscreen and insect repellents can be used safely together just apply the sunscreen first and then the insect repellent. Never put sunscreen on babies less than 6 months of age, and keep them out of the sun and heat as their skin and bodies are much more sensitive than an adult’s. Be sure to test the product before using it as there could be an allergic reaction especially if you have sensitive skin. If after application the skin turns red or otherwise reacts, change products! Sunscreen is not meant to increase the amount of time you spend in the sun. It is meant to increase your protection from the sun while you are outside. 

              Exposure to UV rays, mainly UVB, can cause sunburns and may eventually cause skin cancer. Sunscreens can help reduce sunburn they are not as effective against the other effects of UV rays such as premature aging and weakening of the immune system. All sunscreens have a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) on their labels. The SPF tells you the length of time that your sunscreen protected skin can be exposed to UVB rays before it starts to get red, compared to unprotected skin. Another way of thinking about this is that it tells you how much longer you can be exposed to the sun before getting a sunburn. The amount of time it takes for unprotected skin to burn depends on skin type. Obviously fair skin burns more quickly than darker skin. 

              If you have the type of skin that would burn after 20 minutes in the sun without protection, then proper application of sunscreen with SPF 30 would allow you up to 600 minutes (30X) in the sun without getting a sunburn. Again this does not mean that your skin is protected from all UV effects. Damage to your skin other than sun burning, may have already started. The SPF varies in sunscreen, via the nature of the sun blocking ingredients in the product. Since the SPF refers only to protection against UVB, it is important to choose broad spectrum sunscreen that also protects from UVA. 

Types of Sunscreen 

              There are different types of sunscreen available. They are classified by the active ingredients that are found in the sunscreen. Some of these products contain chemical filters, some contain physical filters, and some contain both. Chemical filters absorb some of the UVA and UVB radiation and convert it into heat, these filters are more adept at absorbing UVB rays than UVA. Physical filters are small particles (usually zinc oxide or titanium oxide) that scatter and reflect both UVB and UVA radiation. 


              So what happens if we don’t use Sunscreen? Sunburn! Sunburn (also called erythema) is caused by exposure to UV radiation. While the sunburn symptoms are usually temporary (red skin that is painful), skin damage is cumulative throughout a person’s life. Mild sunburn results in skin irritation and redness and can be safely treated at home. Severe sunburn requires medical attention and the symptoms of said burn might not show for a few hours and the full effect might not be seen for 24 hours. Some other symptoms that might turn up due to sunburn are, blisters that develop hours or days later as well as other severe reactions (also called sun poisoning) including fever, chills, nausea, or rash, and peeling skin on sunburned areas several days after the sunburn. 

              Well what should we do if someone gets a sunburn? Immediately remove the person from the sun and place them in a cool not cold shower or bath, or apply cool compresses several times a day and avoid washing the skin with harsh soap. Try and avoid creams or lotions that may hold the heat inside the skin, as well as numbing medication (benzocaine, lidocaine). Aloe gel may be used. Offer the affected person extra fluids over the next 2 or 3 days and if needed administer ibuprofen or acetaminophen to relieve some pain. Going forward make sure all sunburned areas are fully covered to protect the person from further exposure. 

              You should seek immediate medical attention if the sunburn forms blisters or is extremely painful. If there is noticeable facial swelling, nausea, fever, or chills as well as pale or clammy cool skin. If the affected has a rapid pulse or rapid breathing or a headache or a feeling of dizziness and confusion. If they have signs of dehydration, skin infection or eyes that hurt and are sensitive to the light these are other symptoms that indicate immediate medical attention is needed. 

              Remember the best treatment for a sunburn is prevention. Again there is no such thing as a healthy tan. Unprotected sun exposure causes skin and eye damage, premature aging of the skin and a weakened immune system. Skin cancer usually appears in adulthood, but can be cause by excessive sun exposure and sunburns in childhood. You can help prevent skin cancer by protecting your skin and you children’s skin from the harmful rays of the sun. 


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