Stay Cool, Stay Safe

by Margo Graf

The summer heat is upon us–you have probably noticed. Although I am no such vampire, I do hide inside from noon to 2pm, as it is just too intense in the direct sunlight. Lesson learned: I cannot recall how many times my legs have been scorched from a car’s hot leather upholstery as I fumbled into the seat. According to an environmental journal, 93 percent of Americans spend their time indoors–and in this heat, I understand why.  

Other studies show that spending time in nature can increase the body’s production of immune cells and cancer-fighting proteins. So let’s make the most out of our occasional heatwave–without having to sweat the AC bills.

For starters, go on a morning walk through one of Kernersville’s many shaded trails. You could head west for the weekend and relax in crisp mountain air. Or take a dip in one of the many great spots on the coast. North Carolina provides us with a wide range of activities, all in a day’s drive. Being in nature is a great way to unwind, but remember, our complicated weather loves to get extreme.

Before taking a trip, near or far, keep some precautions in mind.

Hydrate! Serious medical problems can result if you are not aware of your fluid intake. Remember that you are probably sweating even while resting…imagine how much water you lose when you are active. So drink up and often. Wearing protective sunglasses and hats will keep your head cool as well. More so, long, breathable clothes are better than sunscreen. Over-exposure to the sun is life-threatening yet completely preventable. One thing on everyone’s mind is their summer tan. Not only will getting sunburns or extensive tans age your skin, they will put you at risk for cancer.

The sun is strong, don’t underestimate it. Even if you stopped tanning twenty years ago, you are still at risk for developing melanoma. Skin cancer is overlooked as a deadly ailment, mostly because so many people are not educated on the seriousness of the sun. Do your research and cover up…cancer is just not worth it.

Furthermore, wearing long clothing in the summer is important because it reduces the need for sunscreen. Last May, Hawaii banned certain sunscreens for ocean-goers. As the sunscreen smears off in the water, it harms the marine life. The water becomes mucky and scientists have recorded corals dying from the bleaching that sunscreens cause. Other brands have recently been investigated because they have caused burns on skin from the way they react to chlorine in pools–even baby sunscreens! Read your labels, know the chemicals. Keep in mind the brands that have succeeded in making safe, all natural and organic sunscreens are often very expensive.

So clothing is starting to appear more attractive. But you might be thinking, “How do I wear long clothes while I swim? Not only will it be incredibly difficult to do butterfly, but I will look absolutely ridiculous.” Fear not, there is a solution. Many clothing lines offer ‘water wear’ that consists of pants and tops. They are basically thin, two-piece wetsuits. And although they sound a bit extreme, they come in all sorts of styles and fabrics. Several eco-companies use recycled fishing net to make their neoprene suits. Water clothing also offers a bit of protection against anything you may come into contact with in the ocean–such as a jellyfish or a piece of coral. If you have never been pricked by a Portuguese Man o’ War, let me tell you…spend the money on a nice suit instead of months worth of sunscreen and scar ointment.

Even if you don’t plan on going in the water, wearing long clothes can keep you safe on the trails. You will want to be careful walking or hiking in brushy areas. Wearing light-colored clothing will help you notice if a tick latches on. Most of the time we don’t feel or see the tick. So the contrast of a black tick and light clothing will make them easier to spot. Pulling your socks up and around the bottom of your pants is also very important. This “seal” prevents the tick from crawling up your leg. Yes, it sounds as creepy and shiver-worthy as can be, but it makes a huge difference. One bite is all it takes. Lyme disease is a terrible malady that affects every person it touches. No matter your age or health status, a little deer tick can be a life-ruiner.

So please, don’t sit inside all day afraid of dehydration, sunburn, and insect bites. Kick back with a sweet ice tea and enjoy the fresh air–just make sure to do it while considering the elements. The slowness of summer is a wonder break in our schedules; we hope you enjoy every minute. Stay cool and safe.

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