After the coldest winter in years and a cool start to spring and summer in Chicago, sun and summer safety may not be at the top of your list. As you know, though, the weather in Chicago changes often, so get ready as we head into the dog days of summer.
- Stay cool. Older adults and people with chronic health problems are more likely to get heat exhaustion or even heat stroke, which can be deadly. If you don’t have air conditioning, why not visit your local library and check out a bestseller? Another option is a trip to your favorite mall. Window-shopping is free, and most malls have places to sit. Even better, invite a friend and get in a mall-walking workout in the cool air. If you can’t get out of the house, drink lots of water and take cool baths.If you know an older person without air conditioning, check in during hot spells. Learn more about heat exhaustion and heat stroke, including the warning signs and what to do.
- Get the water your body needs. You may not feel thirsty, but your body needs water to stay healthy. Always carry a full water bottle with you when you go out. Health conditions and prescription drugs may affect how much you need, so ask your doctor for a recommended amount of water each day. Be sure to eat your fruits and vegetables too.
- Protect your skin. The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends using a broad-spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreen with an SPF (sun protection factor) of 15 or higher. If you’re going to be outdoors for long periods of time, say, at a family picnic, use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher. Wear sunscreen even on cloudy days and in shady areas — you can still get burned. Follow the directions about how often to apply in different conditions (for example, while swimming). Protect your head and face with a hat (some hats even have SPF ratings!) and your eyes with sunglasses. The sun is most intense between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., so keep that in mind while planning your activities. Remember, protecting your skin from the sun’s harmful rays can help you stay younger looking!
- Avoid bug bites. Mosquitoes are known for passing along West Nile virus, and deer ticks transmit Lyme disease. Both can carry other diseases as well. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has a tool that can help you choose a safe and effective insect repellent based on your activity, your time outdoors, your preferences and “how attractive you are to insects.” Once you choose an insect repellent, follow the label instructions.
- Practice food safety. Summertime family picnics are a great way to get together, but eating outdoors is no reason to slack in the food safety department. Food should be kept at appropriate temperatures and cooked thoroughly. Check meats with a thermometer to be sure. The Food & Drug Administration (FDA) offers these tips and recommended cooking temperatures. Bon appétit!
When you take the right precautions, you can enjoy a fun, rewarding and safe summer — year after year.