Summer Tips

Summer’s great but has it’s own health hazards. I’ve written about some of the more common ones before, but here are the most important again as our Summer finally starts to settle in.

Mosquito abatement. June is a great time to patrol your home’s area, looking for sneaky mosquito breeding sites. Now’s the time to dump the aging water out of bird-baths, urns, scooped swing-seats and empty flower pots – even a cupful of stagnant water can be mosquito breeding ground. Places to be sure to check? Look in culverts, wheelbarrows, old buckets and blocked drains/gutters. If your neighbor’s property looks like a mad-scientist mosquito-genetics breeding ground, be sure to gently remind them about West Nile risks too. West Nile is especially dangerous for the elderly, immune-impaired, and very young. If you’re planning one of those lazy sunset family bar-be-ques, be sure to bring long-sleeved loose tops and long pants for covering up as the sun goes down. Use your mosquito-repellent of choice on remaining (minimized) bare areas. Or, better yet, just head inside a bit earlier for some around-the-table board games and dessert.

Socialize. Connecting with your community is an important part of being healthy – studies show that people who have strong social networks are more likely to live longer, take concrete steps to ensure their health, and to rate their life higher on quality-of-life scales. July is National Picnic Month, and July 11 is Cheer Up The Lonely Day. Use July’s fabulous weather to throw together impromptu, low-stress get togethers. Even if you’re feeling a bit isolated, summer is a great time to invite those people you thought you might like to get to know better for a meet-up in the park. Take advantage of some of our local riches – free concerts, free performances, and natural treasures like beaches and parks. All it takes is a call, a blanket and a snack. Make a personal commitment to use the excuse of summer to reach out and revel in face-time.

Beat the Heat. In 2003 a huge heat wave in Europe was a wake-up call for countries and individuals to be vigilant about the health effects of heat waves during the summer. In the first 20 days of August back in 2003, heat had killed more than 14,800 people and fatality rates topped 2,000 per day. In total, over 52,000 Europeans died from heat in that summer. Clinically, humans are remarkably vulnerable at the upper ranges of our temperature tolerance. Our bodies live around 98.6 degrees. When it comes to outside temperatures, we can go way way way down the Fahrenheit scale (as long as we can keep adding layers). But if the temperature of our environment shifts just a few degrees above where our bodies live, we have a very hard time of it. Highs of 100 degrees, then 105, then 110 – people start to die, even healthy young people. Physiologically, when it comes to hot days, we don’t have much margin for error. So what can you do to protect yourself and your loved ones? First, be mindful of the temperature and its power to kill. Second, have a heat plan – know where to go to cool off, even during a rolling black-outs (malls, libraries, department stores, shaded community pools, etc.).

Keep tabs on neighbors, distant family members, and particularly keep in mind those who are younger, older or on certain medications – they are the particularly vulnerable. Third, never underestimate the effect of heat in a closed space – it takes remarkably little time to overheat and die in a car, even with windows open. If you’re at a large sporting event, be aware of the dangers of sitting in full sun, without a breeze – don’t be afraid to call it quits (even if you think you’ll look like a weeny). At a local 105-degree swim meet, parent and families were baking on asphalt in an enclosed, breeze-less area. A wonderful parent convinced the announcer to stop the meet and then verbally joke and bully parents into climbing in the pool (clothes and all!) before the meet would continue. What had become a tense, ill-feeling, fretful and too-hot crowd transformed into a laughing communal event where others noticed and cared for people over-heating. Lives were probably saved that day. Make a commitment to yourself to be that person who notices and steps up. Finally, have a heat-kit handy, especially in your car – get in the habit of wearing a hat, carry one of those squirt-fans, and store an empty (BPA-free!) water bottle to refill frequently.

Lazing in the sunny summertime. With changing schedules and lengthening days, sometimes we don’t realize just how little sleep we’re now getting. It pays to watch the clock at bedtimes in June, otherwise it’s all too easy to realize mid-July that everyone has gotten crankier and crankier and then the run-down summer colds/flus settle in. If you and your family are burning the day at both ends (up early for camps, going to bed late at sleepovers and working hard at job deadlines/projects), consider at least trying to live a more siesta-oriented life. Sure, your teens and tweens might sneer at first about going to their rooms for a 45-minute quiet time each day, but you’ll see prompt results and a changing level of energy and happiness. If you’re tied to a desk all day, consider locking the door and putting your head down for twenty minutes each day if you can swing it – your work will benefit from your increased productivity and focus.

Have a relaxing, friendly, hot-but-not-too-hot and bite-free Summer!

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