It’s that time of year again as our friend the sun (who seems to avoid us from November through March) makes another stunning appearance. There is really nothing like a hot holiday, but there are some safety measures we need to be aware of. While that big perfect sphere of hot plasma can give you the best tan you’ve ever seen, it can also create some serious issues while on holiday.

First, it’s very important to know the symptoms of heat illness which is the most serious effect of sun/heat exposure. Hot air, sun rays, and hot surfaces heat your body and this heat is lost by contact with cool air and by sweat production, which cools your body as it evaporates. Weather conditions play a big role in how your body regulates your temperature. For example, if it’s windy, sweat evaporates faster, which helps to cool you. But high humidity slows down this process, contributing to increased body temperature. Heat illness can happen even if you are not in the sun all day and is caused by your body not being able to cool down.

Heat stroke symptoms:

  • dizziness or fainting
  • nausea or vomiting
  • headache
  • rapid breathing and heartbeat
  • extreme thirst (dry mouth or sticky saliva)
  • decreased urination with unusually dark yellow urine

If you or someone you know is experiencing any of these symptoms during hot weather, move immediately to a cool place, drink water and cool down quickly. Heat stroke is a medical emergency so call 911 or the local emergency number immediately if someone has a high body temperature and is either unconscious, confused, or has stopped sweating.

Always wear sunscreen and carry it with you. Dermatologists recommend a SPF of at least 15. The sunscreen should also say “broad-spectrum” on the label, to screen out most of the UVA and UVB rays. Remember, sunscreen will protect against the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays, but not from the heat. Reapply sunscreen often after any water activity and in areas where humidity is high.

Limit your time in the sun especially between 11:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. If you are in areas like Africa or the Middle East pay very close attention to the UV index as some westerners are encouraged to stay indoors during heat waves in these countries. Remember that certain areas of the world experience heat that you will not be used to. I once got sunburned in Guatemala and it was overcast the whole day.

High humidity is as big a risk for heat illness as intense sun. Pay attention to humidity levels where you are.

Limit your time in hot tubs or saunas if you are in a hot climate. These activities can dehydrate you, raise your core body temperature very quickly; and worsen the effects of heat/sun exposure

Avoid doing exercise in the middle of the day. If you are a runner or cyclist try to exercise at sunrise and at sunset. Plus you’ll get the added bonus of amazing scenery!

Try to wear light colored hats and UVA/UVB blocking sunglasses.

Keep lots of water handy. Stay hydrated and drink plenty of water before you feel thirsty to decrease your risk of dehydration. If you are thirsty; you are already dehydrated.

Avoid over consumption of alcohol as alcohol can dehydrate you.

When the UV Index is 3 or higher, protect your skin as much as possible. If your shadow is shorter than you, the sun is extremely strong.

If you feel hot (sun or not) go somewhere to cool off and drink lots of water.

Some medications may affect your sensitivity to heat or interfere with your body’s cooling functions or water and salt retention or make your skin more sensitive to ultraviolet radiation (UV rays). If you are taking medications, ask your doctor or pharmacist if it increases your health risk in the heat and follow their recommendations.

Now get out there are have fun, but play it safe!

Questions? Need some hot holiday ideas? Get in touch.


Sean Mitchell

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