For many Filipinos, summertime is for fun and frolic. Also a time for much family bonding as we go to the beach, the mountains and engage in other outdoor activities. This is also a time for fiestas where we gorge ourselves with food and drink while we catch up on news about our relatives, friends and the neighborhood. And while doing so, let us not be counted as among the victims of the heat summer and its hazards. A little bit of awareness and action can beat the following top summer time hazards:
- Skin damage
- Heat and dehydration
- Eye damage
- Food poisoning
- Driving accidents
1. Skin damage.
You don’t want to suffer from sun burns don’t you? It is itchy and quite painful. Most at risk are the fair-skinned, the elderly and the children. Avoid activities during the hottest parts of the day (10 am to 4pm, so they say), and try to seek shade while you can. But if you still want to do your fun activities outdoors, then do put on and reapply sunscreen, sunblock. And while drinking lots of water do not have immediate effects, it does keep your skin hydrated so skin heals more quickly if you do get sunburned. And by the way, this is also the season for melons, watermelons and the favorite “halo-halo”!
2. Heat and dehydration.
Heat exhaustion is the body’s response to dehydration and an excessive loss of water and salt through sweat. Heat exhaustion typically occurs after long periods of heat exposure. Furthermore, heat exhaustion occurs when the body becomes overwhelmed by heat and the sweat response stops working properly.
The following are the most common signs and symptoms of heat exhaustion:
- Pale, cool and moist skin
- Fast and weak pulse
- Muscle cramps
So, if anyone feels and shows any of these signs, take the following actions:
- Stop activities and rest.
- Drink cool, non-alcoholic beverages.
- Take a cool shower or bath.
- Move to an air-conditioned room.
- Remove extra clothing.
Tips before doing any activity with possible heavy sun/outdoor exposure:
- Hydrate well before and during the activity. Replace lost electrolytes, such as sodium, potassium, and magnesium with food or a sports drink(16 to 20 ounces/hour).
- Avoid heavy manual activity during the hottest time of day—do them closer to sunrise or sunset.
- Wear light, loose clothing so sweat can evaporate.
- Use sunscreen to prevent sunburn which can limit the skin’s ability to cool itself.
- Wear a hat with a brim.
- If you feel your abilities start to diminish, stop the activity and seek out a cool, shaded place.
- Do not drink alcohol or beverages with caffeine before any strenuous activity because they increase the rate of dehydration.
3. Eye damage.
Many of us are aware of the dangerous effects of ultraviolet (UV) rays on the skin, but few realize the danger imposed on our eyes. Whether from natural sunlight or artificial UV rays, UV radiation can damage the eye’s surface tissues as well as the cornea and lens. It can also burn the front surface of the eye, much like a sunburn on the skin. Just as we protect our skin with sunscreen, we should also remember to protect our eyes and vision with appropriate sunglasses.
Ophthalmologists recommend wearing quality sunglasses that offer good protection and a wide-brimmed hat when working outdoors, participating in outdoor sports, taking a walk, running errands, tanning, or doing anything in the sun. It means that the sunglass should offer UV protection (at least 100), be perfectly matched in color and free of distortion and imperfection. Lenses are recommended to be gray for proper color recognition.
Short term effects of sun damage to the eye is a condition called “photokeratitis” which can be reversible but long term cumulative effects is the formation of cataracts in the eyes or damage to the retina.
4. Food poisoning.
We’ve all heard horror stories of food gone bad and people sent to hospital for food poisoning and they seem to occur more around summertime. This is because bacteria thrive in warm, moist environments. In summer, there is an increased number of food packed for outdoor activities.
So how can we prevent food poisoning? Choose to prepare foods like adobo which inhibits bacteria growth. Avoid foods with cream, mayo or tomatoes as they spoil fast. Which means leaving off carbonara or spaghetti for “baon” foods . Grill or cook other foods on the spot. And for those especially in charge of food preparation and distribution, they should frequently wash hands and cooking surfaces, do not allow foods and utensils to become cross-contaminated, cook foods at their proper temperature, and promptly refrigerate leftovers.
5. Driving accidents.
Driving accidents ca kill especially when combined with alcohol during the activity. While we can not fault people for drinking as a way of having fun, the designated driver should not drink and drive. Other precautions are: keep the summer road trips to a reasonable length and avoid driving after midnight.
Each summer, we hear of tragic drowning accidents at the beaches or in pools. Children are especially vulnerable in swimming pools. In the US, for each child under 14 that drowns, another five suffer from near drowning. And while we do not have data on child drowning here in the Philippines, the few that we hear during the news should very well force us to be more cautious. Prevent these summer tragedies involving pools through supervision, proper pool safety and enforcing rules around the water. Around the beach, parents and guardians should look out well on proper behavior of their children, including the use of life jackets.
Remember- these precautions will not allow summer hazards to take the fun out of summer!
Photo Credit: Sai Kiran Anagani