There’s nothing like the arrival of a long-awaited sunshine to lift the spirits.
However, long, balmy days and the new zest for life that comes with them can lead to all sorts of wrong decisions that affect our health, comfort and well-being.
To keep your summer on track, we asked the experts to shed light on the season’s biggest health hazards and how to avoid them…
GET A BASIC TAN
We know the dangers of sun damage, but it doesn’t stop many from getting burned at the first sight of the sun.
In fact, a worrying 23% of Brits don’t use sunscreen at all.*
“Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the UK, so sun protection is essential and also one of the most effective ways to keep your skin looking young,” says Professor Brian Diffey of the British Association of Dermatologists, who recommends using a sunscreen with at least SPF30 and high UVA protection (indicated by at least four stars on the bottle).
“On average, people fail to apply sunscreen to 10% of their face – the most common site for skin cancer.
“So choose a formula you’re comfortable applying frequently and liberally, and use shade and protective clothing.”
And make no mistake about it, there’s some benefit to tanning a base layer. “Any tan is a sign that your skin has been damaged,” warns Professor Diffey.
KEEP FIGHTING BLADDER
A blister can really throw you off, and summer is particularly troublesome when sweat causes friction in your sandals.
“The thin layers of skin can peel off, causing redness and inflammation, and forming a blister-like pouch with prolonged rubbing,” says podiatrist and Osgo CEO Tony Gavin.
A well-fitting shoe is essential, but nearly 30 million of us have damaged our feet by wearing ill-fitting footwear.**
“Get your feet measured – it’s not just for kids,” says Tony. “Keep feet as dry as possible, choose styles with adjustable closures for flexibility, and if a blister develops don’t pop it!
“Cut a hole in a piece of foam or felt, form a donut over the bubble and secure in place. Most blisters heal on their own within three to seven days.”
See your GP if your doctor shows signs of infection (hot, painful, oozing pus). Left untreated, you could develop cellulitis, which can infect your blood, muscles, and bones.
DON’T STAY COOL
We definitely romanticize the warm summer days, but the reality always involves the dreaded heat rash with a side of chafing.
“Heat rash, also known as prickly heat, occurs when clogged pores trap sweat under the skin, leading to a build-up of bacteria and inflammation, causing a rash and, in most cases, a layer of small itchy bumps,” says dermatologist Dr. Derrick Phillips.
“Apply a cold water compress to the area or soak in cold water, use healing creams with soothing ingredients such as Aveeno Baby Soothing Relief Emollient Cream, £6.99 and avoid scratching.”
Regarding chafing and internal rubbing of thighs, he advises, “Gently pat skin dry and apply petroleum jelly to affected area.”
Discreet, non-chafing shorts worn under skirts and dresses can also be a boon.
COLD WATER SHOCK
Falling or jumping into cold water is a very real danger as it stresses the body.
Around 165 people lose their lives on the UK coast every year, according to the RNLI, and over half of those deaths involve people who hadn’t even planned to go into the water but suffered trips or falls.
“Anything below 15°C is defined as cold water which can seriously affect your breathing and movement, and the average sea temperature in the UK is just 12°C,” says Gabbi Batchelor, RNLI Water Safety Education Manager.
“If you unexpectedly fall in the water or have problems, our advice is swim to live,” adds Gabbi.
“Fight your instinct to thrash, sit back, stretch your arms and legs and levitate.
“Once you control your breathing, you are able to call for help or swim to safety.”
Stinging away uninvited guests seems inevitable in the summer, at home or abroad, when your skin proves a feast for airborne insects.
“Cover up, especially at sunset and in the evening, and use an insect repellent that contains DEET, picaridin, and lemon eucalyptus oil,” says Dr. Stuart Sanders, General Practitioner in London General Practice.
Though scratching offers temporary, blissful relief if you’ve been bitten or stung, resist the urge — you’re making matters worse.
“If the spike is visible, it should be removed with forceps,” says Dr. sanders “Wash the area and apply an antiseptic or antihistamine cream.
A cold compress can also reduce swelling, pain, and itching, while antihistamine pills can reduce the allergic reaction if you get raised blisters.”
NOT ENOUGH DRINKING
Water makes up nearly two-thirds of your body weight and about 73% of your brain.
Yet 43% of people believe they aren’t getting enough H2O simply because they forget to drink water.***
“Signs of dehydration include extreme thirst, headaches, and fatigue.
“Your urine will be dark yellow and pungent, and you may even feel dizzy. If this is the case, talk to a doctor or pharmacist who can recommend rehydration bags that will replenish the electrolytes in your body,” says Hussain Abdeh, principal pharmacist at MedicineDirect.
“Always carry a reusable water bottle so you can take regular sips and dilute alcoholic beverages with pint of water.”
Try to drink six to eight glasses of water a day, and if you sweat a lot, drink so much that your urine is pale.
FORGOTTEN YOUR SUNGLASSES
Sunglasses bring a touch of glamour, but more importantly, they help protect your eyes from the sun’s harmful UV rays.
“UV light has been linked to cataracts, eye cancer, sunburned eyes, and growths on or near the eye.
“The sun can also cause aging and pigment changes in the skin of the eyelids,” says Vik Sharma, consultant ophthalmologist at the London Ophthalmology Centre.
“You need to think about protecting your eyes with sunglasses that have robust lens protection (look for UV400 protection).
“Remember that clouds do not block UV light and be aware that UV light is strongest from noon to early afternoon.
“Also, wear a hat if you can — wide-brimmed or baseball caps work best for shading your face.”
ACCORDING TO FAD BIKINI-BODY PLANS
Are you dying to look good at the beach? It’s about choosing a healthy path to reach your goal.
“Don’t believe in so-called fast-acting solutions like thin teas and fat-burning gummies. They don’t work and they’re not safe,” says Dr. Nadja Auerbach, Clinical Operations Associate at Thriva Health.
“Side effects of rapid weight loss include severe dehydration and electrolyte imbalances, which can lead to gallstones and nutrient deficiencies.”
“People often lose more muscle than fat and often regain the lost weight, leading to a yo-yo dieting pattern that can be damaging to mental and physical health,” she adds.
“Instead, focus on building strength and fitness and nourishing your body, which sets you up for long-term success.
“Unfollow social media accounts that trigger negative feelings about your body and practice cultivating self-compassion by appreciating and respecting what your body can do, rather than judging it based on what it looks like.”
Think again when comparing yourself to strangers online. Your health is more important than ideals of beauty.
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