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10 tips to stay healthy all summer long

June 16, 2022 • read

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10 tips to stay healthy all summer long

Summers across this country are delightful. You spend so long cooped up in winter that getting outside to soak up the sunshine and warm weather is a treat. It’s not hard to figure out how to take care of yourself in the summer, but there are some important things to be aware of.

Many Canadians go camping or away to cottages over the warmer months, so you’ll need to keep some things in mind to take care of your health. Read on to take in our health tips for summer.

1. Summer tips for skin

As wonderful as it is to enjoy the warmer months, they can take a toll on your skin. An increase in sweat and oil production from the heat can cause clogged pores and acne. Along with that, the hot, humid air and strong UV rays from the sun mean that you’ll need to stay on top of skin care for dry skin in summer too.

Here’s a look at how to take care of your skin in the summer:

  • Hydrate — knowing how to keep your skin hydrated in summer is key when it comes to preventing dry skin. Apply sunscreen with SPF 30 or more, use lukewarm water to wash your face and skin, put on moisturizer after showering, and drink plenty of water throughout the day.
  • Wash your face regularly — oily skin can lead to blackheads and acne — definitely not a good time. When it comes to how to keep your skin clear this summer, you’ll want to wash your face no more than twice daily, exfoliate two to three times a week only, and avoid touching your face since it can transfer dirt, oil, and bacteria. As much as you love the beach, you don’t want remnants of sand or chlorine sticking around on your skin!
  • Apply and reapply sunscreen — no matter what type of skin you have, sunscreen should be your number one priority. You should also stay out of the sun during peak hours — between 10am to 3pm each day — and wear long-sleeved shirts, pants, wide-brimmed hats, and skirts to avoid harmful UV rays.

The sun emits ultraviolet radiation (UV). Too much will quickly cause sunburn and can lead to skin cancer, skin aging, and cataracts.

And, if you’re wondering if just one sunburn can cause skin cancer, the answer might surprise you. While one bad sunburn won’t “cause” skin cancer, it can increase your risk. In fact, there are over 80,000 cases of skin cancer in Canada each year.

To avoid skin damage from UV light, weather services report on the UV index — measuring your risk from zero to 11. The sun is higher in the sky during spring and summer, so the sun’s rays reach you more directly — this means that the UV index is higher.

To protect yourself, slather on the sunscreen and invest in a good hat and pair of sunglasses with UV protection. Staying out of the sun during those peak hours is another great way to keep your eyes and skin protected.

While vitamin D is good for you and you shouldn’t stay indoors all day, it’s important to take precautions. Reflective surfaces like water and white sand also reflect rays and increase UV exposure, so it’s super important to reapply sunscreen when swimming, even if you don’t feel hot.

If you continue to have issues with your skin or notice any suspicious spots, it’s time to speak to a dermatologist. They can assess your skin’s health and provide recommendations or an appropriate course of treatment. And for early signs of aging, your best bet is to speak with a skincare specialist. A skincare specialist can improve the overall health and appearance of your skin, addressing wrinkles, sunspots, and much more.

2. Wear skin-protective clothing

While you know to wear sunscreen, a hat, and sunglasses for sun protection, you might not know that covering up the rest of your skin is just as beneficial.

Wearing sun-protective clothing in Canada is one option. This specialized clothing is made to protect your skin from UV rays. It comes with an Ultraviolet Protection Factor (UPF) rating system that lets you know how much sun protection there is in the fabric. The maximum rating for UV sun protection clothing is UPF50 — meaning it’ll block out 98% of the sun’s rays.

If you don’t have sun-protective clothing, regular clothing like long pants, skirts, and long-sleeve shirts that cover your skin are also options — here’s what to look for:

  • Dark colours — as surprising as it may be, black clothing does protect you from the sun — so do other dark colours. They absorb UV rays better than light-coloured clothing, which means those rays are less likely to penetrate your skin.
  • Densely woven cloth — if you can see through the fabric when you hold it up to the light, it means UV rays will penetrate your skin easier. Denim, canvas, and synthetic fibres (like shiny polyesters that reflect radiation) are good choices.
  • Loose-fitting — this is the best kind of fit since tight-fitting clothing stretches, reducing the amount of sun protection.

3. How to prevent bug bites during summer

By now you’ve likely been warned about the danger of ticks. Since they’re most active from April to September, you’ll need to keep an eye out as you enjoy the outdoors. Blacklegged ticks — commonly known as Deer ticks — spread Lyme disease through an infected bite. A tick needs to be attached for at least 24 hours to transmit the bacteria, called Borrelia burgdorferi, which causes Lyme disease.

To help minimize your exposure and prevent tick bites, tuck your pants into your socks if you’re walking in tall grass and wooded areas. It’s also best to stay on the main trail, since the more wild an area is, the more likely there are to be ticks.

You’ll also want to make sure you wear light clothing since ticks are dark-coloured and hard to spot on darker clothing. And finally, if you’re going to an area with ticks, wear insect repellent that has DEET in it.

Ticks aren’t the only bugs that can ruin a Canadian summer — hello mosquitoes — and West Nile virus is still a concern in parts of Canada.

Mosquitoes lay their eggs in standing water, so removing that from your property is one of the best things you can do to get rid of the pesky summer bugs. Bird baths, kiddy pools, and anywhere else that water collects all make inviting spots for mama mosquitoes to lay their eggs. You’re still likely to run into them, however, so wearing insect repellent as well as loose-fitting, tightly woven fabric like nylon or polyester, will help deter their bites.

If you’ve been bitten by a mosquito, don’t scratch! Washing your bite with soap and water and applying calamine lotion or cream can be helpful for itchiness. Reducing local inflammation with cortisone cream or by applying ice, and taking ibuprofen to reduce swelling are also good methods of bug bite treatment.

If any of your bug bites cause rashes and swelling, hives, dizziness, abdominal cramping, vomiting, nausea, diarrhea, or anaphylaxis, call 9-1-1 immediately. These are just a few of the symptoms of an allergic reaction to bug bites.

You should also follow up with an allergist if you’ve experienced an allergic reaction to bug bites. An allergist can perform skin or blood tests to identify the type of insect you’re allergic to and may offer immunotherapy to help prevent flare-ups for future bites and stings.

4. Stay on top of your H2O intake

Your body needs water to function properly. Drinking fluids helps to regulate your body’s temperature, protects your spinal cord, joints, and tissues, helps remove waste, aids in digestion, and prevents dehydration. Your chances of becoming dehydrated in summer increase since you lose bodily fluids through sweat, so it’s important to drink enough water each day.

With that being said, sometimes drinking enough water is easier said than done. Here are some ways to make drinking water easier this summer:

  • Set reminders to hydrate every hour
  • Flavour water with your favourite fruit
  • Drink one glass of water with every meal
  • Find a water bottle you like and carry it with you
  • Replace other liquids, like soda or coffee, with a glass of water
  • Incorporate foods to keep your body hydrated in summer with high water content like watermelon, peaches, pineapples, cucumbers, celery, and tomatoes.

When it comes to how many glasses of water a day you should drink, there’s no actual rule. You might have heard that you should drink eight, but there’s no scientific evidence backing this claim. Drinking water consistently throughout the day, whether you feel thirsty or not, is how to keep your body hydrated in summer. If it has been a while since your last glass, it’s time to pour a cold one.

5. Beat the heat

Now that you know you should be drinking more water to stay hydrated, you should also know how to keep cool in the summer heat to avoid heatstroke. Heatstroke is actually a medical emergency, and something to be vigilant about on those sweltering days where the humidity bumps the temperature into the 30s. Some simple tips for keeping healthy in the summer heat include making sure you wear cool, loose-fitted clothing and limiting the amount of time you spend outdoors working or exercising.

Heat cramps and heat exhaustion are the steps before heatstroke. So be alert for red or pale skin and nausea or dizziness after time spent in the heat. A shift in mood, change in level of consciousness, or rapid and shallow breathing are all heatstroke symptoms, and you should call 9-1-1 immediately if you’re concerned.

Keep in mind that heatstroke can also occur indoors without air conditioning or in a car. Young children and older adults are especially vulnerable, as their bodies are not as adept at regulating their body temperature.

6. Water safety

Swimming is a great way to keep cool, but reading the Canadian Drowning Report provides a window into how quickly summer fun can turn tragic. Most drowning deaths take place from May to September and, on average, 79% of victims are male.

Recreational activities on natural bodies of water such as lakes account for many of the tragedies — but it’s not just young children who are drowning in these situations.

Young adults aged 15 to 34 and seniors over 65 are the groups most likely to die from drowning in Canada because they’re not wearing a lifejacket. When it comes to summer water safety, small changes can have a huge impact. Some important summer water safety tips include:

  • Lifejackets or personal flotation devices— this is a must for boating. And, if you’re a weak swimmer, you should always wear one before jumping into the water.
  • Sober swimming — drinking alcohol and water activities should never go hand-in-hand.
  • Swim buddies — No matter how good you are at swimming, everyone needs at least one buddy for swimming safety.
  • Swim advisories — if you plan on heading to a public beach, you’ll want to watch for these. Public health units monitor water quality throughout the summer to check for E-coli levels in water. View your local public health unit’s website for swim advisories before heading out or look for warning signs at the beach before taking a dip.

7. Prevent summer food poisoning

Summer is the perfect time for picnics — it’s also the perfect time for bacteria which grows faster in warmer weather and can equal food poisoning. Food poisoning can start in as little as a few hours or as much as a few days or weeks after consuming contaminated food or drink.

Common signs of food poisoning include vomiting, diarrhea, fever, abdominal pain, and headache. While uncomfortable, some of these signs don’t necessarily mean you need to go to the hospital. You’ll want to stay hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids as the food poisoning passes through your body.

However, food poisoning can be serious and even life-threatening. As for when to go to the hospital with food poisoning? You’ll need to go to the nearest emergency room immediately for any of the following:

  • Bloody diarrhea or diarrhea that lasts more than three days
  • Fever over 39°C
  • Frequent vomiting
  • Confusion
  • Double or blurred vision
  • Drooping eyelids
  • Slurred speech
  • Difficulty swallowing and breathing
  • Dry mouth
  • Weakness or muscle paralysis

To prevent summer food poisoning, be vigilant about your food. Whether you’re heading to the park with your picnic basket or having friends over for a barbecue, here’s your go-to list for how to prevent food poisoning in summer:

  • Fill your cooler with ice packs and keep it in a cool place
  • Clean your hands well before eating
  • Don’t eat food that has been left out in extreme heat for more than an hour
  • Keep meat chilled until it’s ready to hit the grill
  • Use separate utensils and plates for raw and cooked meats

8. Limit alcohol intake

Canadians only get a few months out of the year to enjoy hitting up a patio or having an alcoholic beverage in the garden. But, too much alcohol and summer isn’t a good mix.

Alcohol does affect you more in hot weather — dehydration can be a reaction to heat and alcohol. This is because drinking alcohol isn’t the same as drinking water. It’s a diuretic that causes you to urinate and sweat more than usual, which can result in dehydration. The daily recommended alcohol intake is no more than two drinks a day for women, and three for men.

This doesn’t mean, however, that you can’t get some hydration from non-alcoholic beverages. There are lots of fun, summertime refreshments like mocktails, kombucha, seltzers, and non-alcoholic craft beers and wines to name a few.

Alcohol can also impair your judgment. This can have serious consequences if you’re planning on swimming or operating a boat. In fact, alcohol is one of the most common factors in drownings and near-drownings for adults. You should never consume alcohol before heading for a dip or ride on the water.

9. Importance of sleep

Summer days are long and bright. As joyful as they are, they can also spell trouble for sleeping. Too much sun exposure can affect melatonin levels and result in what feels like summer insomnia — trouble falling or staying asleep.

The heat also makes it more difficult to sleep since you can feel hot and uncomfortable at night. While it’s normal to sleep less in the summer, it’s still not good for your body. Sleep deprivation can take a toll on your health, resulting in poor decision-making, slower reaction time, mood changes, and even lower pain threshold. Long-term side effects of sleep deprivation include increased risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity, stroke, and mental health issues.

To help get your sleep schedule back on track, try:

  • Only using your bed for sleeping — no snacking or scrolling
  • Drinking your last coffee at least six hours before bedtime
  • Following a soothing pre-bedtime routine
  • Keeping your bedroom quiet, cool, and clean.

If you’re still having trouble getting to sleep this summer, consider speaking to a sleep therapist. Sleep therapists are trained in the management, treatment, and prevention of sleep disorders and sleeping problems. And, by speaking to a sleep therapist on Maple, you don’t have to leave home — you can simply request an appointment and speak to one from your phone, tablet, or computer.

10. Stay active

One of the many benefits of summer is being able to get active outside, whether it’s biking, swimming, hiking, or gardening. Outdoor exercise is sure to get your heart pumping. And, as a bonus, working out in hot weather burns slightly more calories if you exercise at your regular intensity and for the same amount of time.

While it’s safe to exercise in hot weather, you’ll need to take the right precautions so that you don’t overheat or become dehydrated. Some summer exercise safety tips to follow are:

  • Drinking plenty of water. And, if you’re a salty sweater — meaning you notice white or gritty salt marks on your skin or clothes, or your sweat tastes salty and stings when it hits your eyes — consider electrolyte replacement. If you’re doing low to moderate activities, for example, you’ll want to focus on water for hydration and food for electrolyte and carb replacement. For intense activities, a sports drink is a great electrolyte replacement.
  • Wearing breathable material
  • Not overdoing it — if you start to feel lightheaded, dizzy, or sick, it’s time to stop and cool down.
  • Exercising outside of the sun’s peak hours
  • Reapplying sunscreen every two hours if you’re sweating

Summer health care is more than just making sure you’re staying hydrated and eating right. Living in Canada, getting out into nature is one of the national pastimes, but doing so means taking certain precautions. So take a minute to prepare before going out to keep you and your loved ones safe and healthy this summer. And if you find yourself needing medical care, make sure your phone is charged up so you can connect with a doctor on Maple from anywhere in minutes.

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