August 7, 2017

How to keep safe in the sun this summer

As temperatures rise, so does the need for hydration and sun protection.

A young girl develops a painful sunburn following a fun day at the pool. A college student becomes nauseous during a grueling football practice. An elderly man feels overly fatigued after long hours at the beach with his grandchildren.

While summer is a wonderful time to rejuvenate outdoors, soaring temperatures increase the need for sun protection and hydration to prevent skin damage and heat-related illnesses. Prolonged time in hot weather, especially during peak hours between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., can lead to conditions ranging from mild heat cramps to more serious heat exhaustion and heat stroke.

“I often see patients come in with a headache and/or fatigue after a long day at the pool or beach,” said Angeline Ong-Su, MD, family practice physician at Kaiser Permanente’s Panorama City Medical Center. “These symptoms often are due to dehydration. It’s important to hydrate when you’re out in the sun — drink extra water or iced herbal teas. Drinking alcohol, sodas, or energy drinks can actually do the opposite and dehydrate your body.”

“If you start experiencing lightheadedness, dizziness, nausea, or headache, make sure to go into the shade or indoors and take measures to cool down,” Ong-Su continued. “More worrisome symptoms include cold, clammy skin; vomiting; weakness; fainting; and confusion. You should seek immediate medical attention if you experience these symptoms.”

Protecting our skin from the sun and sunburns is equally important. “Any tan or sunburn is damage to our skin, which will lead to new freckles, moles, and premature aging, including wrinkles,” Ong-Su said.

Skin damage also can lead to skin cancer, the most common type of cancer. Melanoma accounts for only about 1% of skin cancers but causes a large majority of skin cancer deaths. Melanoma diagnosis and related death rates have been steadily rising for the past 3 decades. Deadly melanoma cases jumped 200% between 1973 and 2014, according to the American Cancer Society.

“Our Community Benefit funding supports various partner organizations to provide popular programs such as Operation Splash; Rethink Your Drink; and HEAL Zones for healthy eating, active living; and to increase access to green spaces, farmers markets, and more,” said Ong-Su. “Practicing sun safety while enjoying the outdoors is key to healthy living.”

Here are more sun-safe tips from the American Cancer Society and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.