The problems with hot weather

POSTED ON 26/08/2019 IN Nutrition and Health

How strange – a bank holiday weekend and the weather is nice! That happens every….decade?! Of course, with hot weather comes the usual, but important, warnings of what to do and what not to do in the heat. These can easily be dismissed, but they shouldn’t be because they often contain important information about staying safe in the sun, which may be overlooked as it can be easier to just enjoy it. The main problems that arise from experiencing prolonged heat are dehydration, overheating, heat exhaustion, and heatstroke.

Dehydration is caused when a person’s body loses more fluids than it takes in, and can become a serious problem if it is not treated. Symptoms of dehydration include feeling thirsty, having dark yellow urine, feeling tired, dizzy and/or lightheaded, and having a dry mouth, lips, and eyes.

Babies, young children and elderly people (especially those over the age of 75) are more at risk from a heatwave and from becoming dehydrated, but it can also happen more easily if a person has been in the sun for too long, drunk too much alcohol, has diabetes, or has sweated too much after exercising, among others.

Hot weather is usually welcomed by most people, but prolonged hot weather can especially affect people who have serious long-term conditions such as heart or breathing problems, people who have mobility problems, people who have serious mental health problems, people who misuse alcohol or drugs, and people who are physically active such as those who take part in sports or those that are labourers.

Other things should also be remembered when enjoying being out in the sun, including wearing sun cream on all exposed skin. It can be annoying to keep applying sun cream, but it is very important to do so – getting sunburnt increases a person’s risk of developing skin cancer. Using sun cream has been proven to decrease a person’s risk of skin cancer and skin pre-cancers, and helps to prevent the premature aging of the skin, which is caused by the sun, which includes wrinkles, sagging and age spots. A factor 30 sunscreen, at least, should be worn, and it is also important to remember that water washes sunscreen off. When someone is in the sea or a swimming pool, the cooling effect of the water can make them think they are not getting burnt, but water reflects ultraviolet (UV) rays which actually increases that person’s exposure to the sun. A way around this is for a person to use water-resistant sunscreen if they are likely to sweat or have contact with water. Even if it is water-resistant, once out of the water, sunscreen should be reapplied straight away.

Sun cream is important to use when out in the sun, but it is also important to wear sun-safe clothing, a wide brimmed hat, and UV-blocking sunglasses, along with seeking to be in the shade whenever it is possible to do so. The sun is at its strongest between 11am and 3pm from the months of March to October and so it is important to spend some time in the shade in this timeframe.

If you are enjoying the hot weather, have fun! But stay safe.

Sarah Keeping MBPsS MSc PgDip GDip BA (Hons)

Follow Sarah on twitter at @keepingapproach