The warm weather has arrived once again, thank goodness! In order to enjoy the outdoors safely and comfortably with friends and family, it’s good to think ahead and be prepared. There’s plenty you need to do around the house as well, so here’s a heads-up to keep you on your toes.
By Deb Jenkins, RN, BScN, MN
Remember that light-coloured clothing reflects the sun’s rays better than dark colours, and loose-fitting clothing is much more comfortable and practical in the hot weather. Black or navy clothing can cause unnecessary overheating as those colours absorb the sun’s rays.
Sunscreen with an SPF factor of between 30 and 60 is recommended. Don’t forget to reapply at least every four hours, to ensure constant protection from the sun’s harmful rays.
As previously mentioned, sunscreen is essential when working or relaxing outdoors when the sun’s rays are strong. As well, moisturizers or after-sun gels that contain aloe should be applied after bathing or after sun exposure, to help keep the body hydrated. Aloe is a great natural healing product that helps to keep the skin soft and supple.
Baths and/or showers should be taken with water that is tepid/warm rather than extremely hot, to prevent drying of the skin.
It is important to protect against bug bites; cream or liquid bug sprays that contain DEET are the best to use. DEET discolours clothing, and some fabrics such as white cotton will turn yellow after it dries. When applying these products, take care to wear clothing that is not special to you.
What to eat and drink
Eat: Skip hot, heavy meals and go for small meals when the weather becomes extremely hot. These are easier to prepare and also keep the blood sugar more constant. Fleshy fruits (such as melons and apples) and vegetables (such as celery, lettuces and other leafy greens) help not only with nutrition but also with fluid intake, as they have a high water content. Lettuce salads, pasta salads, bean salads and other cold meals that can be prepared ahead of time are excellent for the hot weather. It is a great time because you can take advantage of the availability of seasonal fruits and vegetables.
Drink: It’s important at all times to drink an appropriate amount of fluids, but this becomes essential during the summer months. The recommended fluid intake should be approximately 8 1/2 cups. This fluid should preferably not be carbonated or caffeinated, as they actually reduce the fluid level in your body and can cause dehydration. It’s fine to have fluids such as coffee or pop, but limit the amount, and drink one extra cup of fluid for every cup of coffee or pop to compensate for their diuretic action.
Suggested beverages in the summer are things like “ades” (lemonade, orangeade) and other thirst-quenching products such as electrolyte-balanced beverages (e.g., Gatorade, Powerade). Water is an excellent source of hydration, but should be accompanied with a variety of other nutritious beverages to keep the cells well hydrated.
Around the house
Air conditioners help keep the temperature of the home constant. If a central-air system is not available to you, room air conditioners can be just as effective, especially when accompanied by floor fans to direct the air and circulate it to other rooms.
The heat inside can rise quickly. Closing the windows and blinds early in the day, when the temperature inside is cooler than outside, also keeps the house temperature constant and more tolerable. Windows can be opened in the evening when the sun is setting, and when there is a cooler breeze.
Heat-retardant curtains are available for larger windows and doors such as patio doors; these help keep the heat out in the summer and the heat in throughout the winter months. They save on electricity, too! Alternatively, seek relief in public places such as local shopping malls or libraries, or visit friends and family who have air conditioning.
When you’re working outdoors in the summertime, it’s important to work within your limits. Move slowly: Rushing around in hot weather can cause your body temperature to rise more quickly. If you are an avid gardener, container gardening is a “working smarter, not harder” idea that will still provide enjoyment. It’s also wise to leave part of a large property unkempt during the hottest time of the year, to reduce exhaustion. Keeping part of the yard in a natural state is okay when it becomes too much to care for or when the weather is extremely unseasonal.
During times of extreme heat, it is necessary to work more slowly and do smaller amounts of work, especially for the elderly. Hiring a student or grandchild to help with the outdoor chores is a smart idea that also helps the young person earn extra money. Exertion should be kept to a minimum during the hot summer days, with lots of fluid and nutrition, and breaks in between.
When doing outdoor chores, it is wise to take advantage of the cool of the morning and the evening, and to conserve energy.
Out and about
Socializing and renewing friendships are great ways to spend the summer months. People tend to be outdoors more in the nice weather, and small gatherings can make summertime much more enjoyable. But it’s still important to protect yourself from the elements. You could meet friends at a library, mall or other air-conditioned places to “beat the heat.” Many fast-food restaurants and cafés are equipped with Wi-Fi, so bringing your laptop computer along is another way you can avoid the high temperatures and stay in an air-conditioned environment.
Whatever your plans are this summer, stay cool, stay safe and live well!
Deb Jenkins is a long-term care nurse. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.