Now the weather is getting warmer, many of us are looking forward to relaxing in the sunshine. However, warmer temperatures can bring a list of health complaints to our summer health: sunburn, hay fever and insect bites, to name a few. We share advice on how to avoid these issues, and what to do if you’re affected.
1. Protect your skin
New guidelines from the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) have warned that there is no ‘safe’ way to tan, and adults need to apply to exposed skin at least 50ml of sunscreen to be safe in the sun. The report does also stress the importance of having some exposure to the sun, to ensure we get enough vitamin D, which is vital for healthy teeth and bones. Enjoy the sun in short periods of time between 11am and 3pm, and keep your skin covered and comfortable in loose, cotton clothes.
2. Hay fever
A recent study from the Netherlands claims that hay fever can affect your driving ability as much as drinking two to three units of alcohol. Hay fever sufferers will know that the symptoms go beyond coughing and sneezing, and can seriously affect day-to-day life. The Met Office provides pollen forecasts on the weather map to provide hay fever sufferers with vital information to help reduce the impact of pollen on their health: metoffice.gov.uk
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3. Go Mediterranean
The Mediterranean diet, which is rich in fish, fruit and vegetables, grains, pulses and olive oil has been proven to have a number of health benefits (including reducing the risk of heart disease and dementia) and is highly recommended by the NHS. The summer months are the perfect time to adopt the healthy Mediterranean diet.
4. Heat waves
Although most of us welcome the warmer weather, the rising temperatures increase the chance of heat waves, which can be harmful or potentially fatal. Graham Bickler of Public Health England stresses that: ‘there is considerable evidence that heat waves are dangerous and can kill. In the 2003 heat wave [where temperatures in the UK hit 38°C during a nine-day heat wave, the highest temperature recorded in the UK] there were 2,000 to 3,000 excess deaths in England. Across Europe, there were around 30,000 excess deaths.’ Elderly people, young children and babies are particularly vulnerable to health problems during a heat wave, so stay hydrated and have cool baths or showers. It’s also wise to check up on friends and relatives who may be less able to take care of themselves, and wear loose, cool clothing and a hat if you do go outdoors.
5. Go swimming
We all know how beneficial exercise is, and adults are recommended to do 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity per week. In the warmer months, swimming is the perfect exercise to cool off—it works all your muscles at the same time (as opposed to other actives which only works isolated muscles), including your heart. Water is 1,000 times denser than air so it’s an incredibly effective method of toning muscles safely without using too much force, and the broad range of movement required to move in the water helps joints and ligaments stay flexible in and out of the water. Heated pools also loosen joints and muscles, so if you have any previous injuries from high-impact activities, swimming is the perfect low-impact alternative to keep you fit and injury-free.
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6. Eye health
Keeping our eyes safe from the sun’s harmful UV rays is just as important as protecting our skin, as UV exposure contributes to the development of types of cataracts and even macular degeneration. UV radiation can also damage the skin of the eyelid, the cornea, lens and other important parts of the eye. Make sure you wear sunglasses to protect your eyes, and check the label when buying sunglasses—they should block 99 to 100 percent of both UVA and UVB rays.
7. Bites and stings
Unfortunately, summer brings a host of unwanted pests that can bite and sting us and occasionally cause painful reactions. Wasps, midges and marching ants are the main culprits with wasp stings causing the most allergic reactions in the UK. Wasps are more likely to sting if they feel threatened, so move calmly away from them and if you are stung be sure to remove the stinger from your skin to prevent infection. If you experience no allergic reaction, use a cold compress on the area to prevent swelling and clean the wound with antibiotic treatments. If you do have an allergic reaction (such as difficulty breathing, nausea, dizziness or difficult swallowing) seek immediate medical help.