It’s natural to worry about health concerns even when they are quite rare. A couple of years ago many of us worried about the potential of ebola spreading in the U.S. when the likelihood was actually quite low. We get caught up wondering if our fruits and vegetables are organic enough to keep us from getting some kind of horrible cancer. We watch a show about someone with a rare disease and suddenly every little twinge we feel is the first sign of that very disease.
It’s human nature to worry about such things, even when there isn’t much we can do about them. Diagnosis: normal.
But there is a real health threat all around us that many of us don’t even think about. That health threat is unhealthy summer weather – particularly during a Texas summer. The good news is that it’s easy to take steps to prevent this threat from causing health problems for you.
We know that UV rays can cause serious damage to our skin that ranges from premature aging to potentially deadly skin cancers. But we have the tools to prevent this damage.
When possible, stay out of the sun during peak hours from 10 am to 4 pm.
When you are out in the sun, always use a sunscreen with an SPF (sun protection factor) of 30 or more to protect any exposed skin. Don’t forget your ears and the back of your neck!
Reapply sunscreen frequently – at least every two hours – while in the sun. You may need to do it even more often if you are sweating a lot or in the water.
Make use of protective clothing. Hats, long sleeve shirts, and long pants are a good choice if you are spending a lot of time in the sun. Rashguards are a great choice for swim days. You can look for clothing with built in SPF to provide the best protection.
We know it gets hot in Texas. But as the saying goes, “It’s not the heat, it’s the humidity.” And that’s exactly what the heat index takes into account. Because high humidity prevents the sweat your body produces from evaporating, your body isn’t able to efficiently cool itself on hot, humid days. This can put you at risk for heat stroke.
If you must spend much time out in unhealthy summer weather, be sure to take frequent breaks in an air-conditioned environment and stay well-hydrated. If you begin to feel cramps, your skin feels cool even while sweating, or you develop nausea, vomiting or headache, these are symptoms of heat exhaustion. Get into a cool environment immediately. If someone around you begins to act confused or has difficulty articulating their words, they stop sweating, or their body temperature rises, call 911 immediately is it could be a heat stroke.
Ever notice that the hot summer air sometimes looks a little hazy? That’s because tiny particles are floating around in it. The Air Quality Index looks for ozone and particulate matter in the air and ranks it for how dangerous it is to breathe.
A rating of “Good” means pollution poses little to no risk. Ratings of “Moderate” and “Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups” mean that those with health issues like asthma or other lung or heart issues should take note. It might cause problems for them. Ratings of “Unhealthy” and “Very Unhealthy” mean that the pollution is so high that healthy individuals may develop symptoms from breathing the air. “Dangerous” means that the pollutant levels are so high they may prompt emergency alerts for the general population
Use these numbers to plan your daily activities. If you typically run outside before work, consider taking it to the treadmill on poor air quality days. If you have asthma, be sure to have your inhaler with you on those days. And pay special attention to young children and the elderly in your world when the air quality is bad, as it can be particularly dangerous for them.
While allergies in Texas tend to be the worst during the spring when everything begins to bloom, many people suffer from allergies in the summer as well. The biggest allergen in summer is grass. If you are one of the folks who struggle with allergies to grass, you probably know it already. Talk to your physician about how to minimize your allergic symptoms and be aware that allergies combined with poor air quality and/or asthma can be a dangerous thing. So keep an eye on air quality and stay indoors when needed to protect your health.
Summer is filled with outdoor fun, and it’s often a time when we can be a little more carefree and let our worries go. But there are real health dangers that come with the Texas heat and sun, so pay attention, put on your sunscreen, and talk to your doctor if you have any concerns about unhealthy summer weather.
If you have questions about how you can protect your or your loved ones’ health, please get in touch with us in one of our Hunt County offices. We’d love to help you stay healthy all year long!