Staying Healthy in the Heat
Our summer wellness tips will help you address concerns like dehydration, heat strokes, and skin damage
The lazy days of summer are finally here, but, as the temperatures rise, so do some common summer wellness concerns such as dehydration, summer hypothermia, hyperthermia, sunburn, and dry hair. But when it comes to summer wellness, a little prevention goes a long way. This is why we’ve gathered some of the most knowledgeable Hudson Valley practitioners and beauty experts to provide their best wellness tips for staying healthy and beautiful this summer!
The sun’s damaging rays can be the greatest threat to hair, so it seems counterintuitive to think that the sun can also be your best beauty tool this summer. But that’s exactly what Maureen Toohey, owner of Fresh Organic Salon Solutions in Bedford Hills, suggests, noting that, during the summer, it’s more important than ever to stay on top of hydrating hair treatments. “It’s actually best to do your beauty treatments while you’re at the beach or the pool—when you can use the sun’s heat. I encourage my clients to pack a beauty bag that contains leave-in conditioner, hair mask, sun-block, and make sure it’s always handy,” she says.
Tips from Toohey:
- Use products that contain sunflower oil, a natural sun protectant.
- Keep hair tied up and back to keep your scalp protected.
- Wear a hat whenever possible.
No one is immune to the summer sun’s damaging rays, says James Nitzkorski, MD, a surgical oncologist at Vassar Brothers Medical Center in Poughkeepsie, who reminds us that skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the US. “Everyone should use sunscreen, regardless of skin color, or weather conditions,” he says. It’s important to take the proper precautions, get rid of outdated attitudes, and get checked regularly. “The more you are exposed to the sun, the greater the risk you have. The concept of base tanning before a vacation should be abandoned! And one single indoor tanning session increases the risk of melanoma by 20 percent. Indoor tanning should never be done,” he warns.
Tips from Nitzkorski:
- Look for a sunscreen that has an SPF 30 or higher, is water-resistant, and broad-spectrum.
- Reapply sunscreen frequently, every 40 to 80 minutes.
- lIf you use a spray sunscreen, make sure to use enough to thoroughly cover the body and don’t inhale the mist.
- Before reaching for that half-empty bottle from a few summers ago, check the expiration date.
It’s hot out and your heart is racing, you’re panting, weak, maybe even nauseated, dizzy, and confused. It’s time to find someplace cool because, according to Craig Moss, MD, doctor of Internal Medicine and Geriatrics for Medical Associates of the Hudson Valley, these are classic signs of hyperthermia, a medical emergency more commonly known as heat stroke. “If you don’t get that core temperature down, you can end up with kidney failure, stroke, or heart attack,” Moss warns.
Moss, who cautions that adults over 70, the very young, and the infirmed face the highest risk of being struck by “classic” non-exertional hyperthermia, is most concerned for his patients during a heat wave, when the mercury climbs into the high 90s for prolonged periods. W. Andrew Wilson, MD, medical director of Emergency Medicine at Northern Dutchess Hospital, agrees. “If you have an elderly or isolated family member, do frequent checks on them in the heat.” He adds to keep an eye on heat stroke brought on by exertion. Athletes, for example, “are sweating like crazy as their body tries to cool itself down, then when they become dehydrated and their core temperatures rise above 104 degrees, their brain will start to shut down.”
Regardless of the type of heat stroke, the remedy is the same. Always avoid Tylenol—which, according to Moss, can actually lead to liver and kidney failure in hyperthermic patients—and get cool!
Tips from Wilson:
- When you start getting hot and your skin is flushed, take off your shirt and expose as much skin as you can.
- Get your body wet and then run a fan over your entire body to allow the water to evaporate.
- Place icepacks or wet clothes under your neck, your armpits, and groin area.
Hypothermia is an obvious threat during the winter, but how about summer hypothermia? “Hypothermia, which occurs when your body loses heat faster than it can produce it and leads to dangerously low body temperatures, is rare in the summer—but it does happen,” explains Mark Papish, MD, medical director of Emergency Medicine at MidHudson Regional Hospital. “It can occur with the elderly and infirmed when they are inside with the air conditioning running very cold and then become immobile.” But, according to Papish, those most at risk are outdoor enthusiasts who head into the elements underprepared for sudden drops in temperature. “It doesn’t have to be freezing. You can become hypothermic when temperatures drop into the 50s if you are exerting yourself, are wet, or are very dehydrated and losing a lot of heat through perspiration. At the first signs of hypothermia—uncontrolled shivering, confusion, and progressive weakness—outdoor adventurers should immediately head for a warm, dry environment and change out of wet clothing.
We’ve all let ourselves become a little parched from time to time, but when true dehydration sets in our body gives us warning signs we must not ignore—including dizziness or fatigue, headaches, muscle aches, and/or dark or deep yellow urine, explains Shantala Sonnad, MD, medical director of Health Quest Urgent Care in Wappingers Falls and LaGrangeville. “A general rule to remember is to drink half of your weight in ounces every day. When spending time outdoors or if one is more active than usual, more water is recommended. And as always, women who are pregnant or breastfeeding require more fluids,” Sonnad explains. She adds that this is particularly important for people who work long hours or spend a great deal of time outdoors in the hot, humid weather; very young children—especially those children with diarrhea; aging adults whose bodies are less able to regulate their temperature; and people with chronic illnesses such as diabetes, heart and liver problems, and people taking certain medications.
If you do become critically dehydrated, “Call 911 immediately!,” says Sonnad. “Get to a shady area immediately and place ice packs or cool water under armpits, on neck, and on arms to quickly cool down the body until help arrives.” •