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Stay Safe This Summer

Talk to your doctor about what healthy habits you can adopt to stay in good shape all summer long. Need a physician? Click here to find one who's right for you.


If you're outdoors, make sure you're respecting that big, glowing ball of heat and UV rays above you

Summer is a season begged to be spent outdoors throwing barbecues, going hiking and floating around a swimming pool on a big inflatable palm tree. But before you head out under the sun, take a moment to read this quick refresher. It can help prevent some potentially life-threatening conditions related to sun exposure.

What's the difference between heat exhaustion and heatstroke, and what should I do if I notice symptoms of either?

Heat exhaustion and heatstroke share some symptoms—nausea, dizziness, headache and high body temperature—but a person with heat exhaustion is usually perspiring heavily, while someone with the more severe condition of heatstroke has lost the ability to sweat.

"Heat exhaustion can even develop over several days if fluids aren't replenished," says Brian Dyak, a board member of the Sun Safety Alliance. If you are overheated or out of breath or your heart is racing, stop what you're doing, move indoors and rest—especially if you feel lightheaded or faint.

With heatstroke, the body has lost the ability to cool itself, so only cool water can bring down body temperature quickly. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends placing a person afflicted with heatstroke in a cool tub or shower, or wrapping him or her in a cool, wet sheet and fanning the person to bolster evaporative cooling. Seek medical attention immediately.

What are ways to stave off heat-related illnesses?

Keep cool and use common sense. Dyak recommends wearing loose-fitting, lightweight and light-colored clothing and avoiding the midday heat as much as possible. If you must exert yourself in a hot environment, drink 16 to 32 ounces of fluids, such as water, fruit juices or sports beverages, each hour.

Exposure to air conditioning for just a few hours a day can help prevent heat-related illnesses, so if it's sweltering even inside your home, find places where you can enjoy a free blast of AC: People-watch at the mall, browse the selections at your local library or bookstore, or sip an iced tea at a coffeehouse.

How can I minimize the risk of skin cancer?

Three simple tools—good clothing, a good hat and good sunscreen of at least SPF 30—can cut down the risk of pre-skin cancers by 50 percent, says John Strasswimmer, MD, PhD, educational spokesman for the Skin Cancer Foundation.

Look for full-coverage garments made of sun-protective materials. Strasswimmer, a Florida resident, says he jogs in a special long-sleeved shirt designed to wick away moisture and shield the sun's rays. And don't select hats made of loosely woven straw, or baseball caps with the old-school plastic-pinhole backs; the sun easily permeates such materials. "If you can see through the hat, the sunlight can see the top of your head," Strasswimmer says.

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Last Updated 04/10/2009