Summer is a fun time for all, when we get to go out, kick off our shoes, soak up the sun and feel like a kid again. Unfortunately, this time of year is also rife with serious health threats, from bug bites, to sunburns, to dehydration and heat exhaustion. If you want a healthy, stress-free summer, check out our one-stop guide to preventing these potential pitfalls.
As much as 75% of your body’s weight is comprised of water, and every minute of every day, you lose a little bit of that water at a time. Especially in the summertime, when sweating is more common, it’s crucially important to continually replace it by drinking enough liquid. Dehydration, or losing more water than you take in, can be dangerous for your health and, if left untreated, can lead to coma, organ failure, and even death.
One of the first signs that you’ve started to become dehydrated is thirst. Doctors say that if you wait until you’re thirsty to have a drink, you’ve waited too long. Other symptoms include dry mouth, inability to sweat or produce tears, muscle cramps, nausea, heart palpitations, lightheadedness, weakness, confusion, dark urine and/or a decreased need to use the bathroom.
To prevent dehydration, always carry a water bottle and try to take a drink every 15-20 minutes. Always drink at least one 8-oz. glass of water before exercising. Don’t drink alcohol or caffeinated beverages to quench your thirst.
When the heat index soars, those working or playing outdoors may be susceptible to heat exhaustion or heat stroke. Signs of heat exhaustion include cramping in the legs, arms, or stomach, paleness, weakness, feeling faint, and nausea.
To prevent heat exhaustion, drink plenty of water (see above), take frequent breaks, and, on extremely hot days, try to limit outdoor work or recreation to the early morning or evening. If you or someone close to you starts to feel signs of heat exhaustion, get some rest, remove your socks and shoes, and try to cool down with a cold compress.
In the summer, mosquitoes, black flies, ticks, fire ants, wasps, and other creepy crawlies can make life miserable. The following herbal applications may keep them at bay: citronella, lavender, cedar, lemon eucalyptus, peppermint, basil, geranium, feverfew, catnip, rosemary, and neem.
To discourage ticks, always wear long pants and socks, and perform a thorough tick check after every excursion outdoors.
If the bugs still bite, you can reduce the sting by rubbing in a damp Tums or Rolaids tab, applying a paste of meat tenderizer, apply a coat of toothpaste, rubbing an onion over the bites, or using a mixture of tea tree oil and aloe vera gel.
The best treatment for sunburn is not to get one in the first place. Even a minor sunburn can increase the threat of skin cancer, so it’s important to protect your skin. Always pay attention to the UV index, and be sure to wear a safe sunscreen that prevents both UVA and UVB exposure. If you do get a sunburn, though, the following home remedies can help: aloe vera gel, a mixture of lavender oil and yogurt, cold whole milk, instant mashed potato mix and crushed ice, a cold cucumber, or a mixture of 1 part tomato juice and 6 parts buttermilk.