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Wellness Wednesday: sun and heat safety ahead of July 4th

Posted at 8:32 AM, Jun 30, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-30 10:32:54-04

IDAHO — This July 4th weekend comes as Idaho experiences a dangerous heatwave so what steps should you take to stay safe if your plans have you heading outdoors?

Dr. Amy Khan, an Executive Medical Director with Regence BlueShield of Idaho, says it starts with picking the right sun protection, something especially important since Idaho consistently has one of the highest rates of melanoma in the nation.

"First off, avoid sunburn. Please plan your activities early in the day or later in the day but avoid being outside between the hours of 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.," says Dr. Khan. "Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen. One that you can apply to all those sun-exposed areas frequently, at least every couple of hours or more often if you're in the water."

Dr. Khan says you also need to protect your lips and eyes. Look for a lip balm that has SPF protection and pick up a pair of tinted sunglasses that protect against UVA/UVB rays before you go out. A wide-brimmed hat that shades your eyes and covers your ears is also a good idea.

Dehydration can also pose a threat to your health, especially as the temperature rises. In general, you should aim to drink half of your body weight in ounces each day so, for example, if you weigh 180 pounds, divide it by two, and you'll need 90 ounces of water daily.

"Avoid becoming overly thirsty or parched so make sure to keep the water handy. Keep a water bottle with you in a backpack, on your bike, in your car. Make it convenient," suggests Dr. Khan.

There are some drinks to avoid in your quest to stay quenched.

"We want to avoid excess alcohol or caffeinated beverages because those can impact our hydration status so really make sure that you're not taking in too much of those, particularly in these higher temperatures."

It's not just hydration to think about. When you're planning out your menus, you'll want to consider packing easy-to-digest, simple foods.

"Things like salads, fruits, and be sure to keep a cooler handy. Meat and dairy products can become spoiled very easily in hot weather," Dr. Khan adds.

As far as your clothing for the day, loose-fitting is your best and safest choice.

"Be sure to select lightweight, loose-fitting, and light-colored clothing. The kind of material that would reflect heat and sunlight best so tight-woven or even some of that UV protected material that's now available," she says.

With a string of hot days forecast for the Treasure Valley, Dr. Khan again stresses the importance of checking on your neighbors to make sure they're doing ok in the heat.

"It's really important to check on older, sick, or frail friends and relatives. These individuals are especially vulnerable to the adverse effects of really extreme heat. A lot of them may be taking medications such as diuretics or water pills or other medicines that might already make their mouth dry or make them feel a little thirsty," Dr. Khan explains. "They also may not be so aware that they're not keeping up on the hydration requirements. Of course, kids, pets, other disabled persons are also at high risk. Never, ever keep these individuals or pets in a car."

No matter what you're planning to do this Fourth of July, remember to slow down and reduce, eliminate, or reschedule strenuous activities until the coolest time of the day. If you are staying active outdoors, drink 8 to 10 ounces of water during every 30 minutes of exercise, and as you sweat, choose a beverage with some sodium and potassium like coconut water to replenish electrolytes.

If you notice someone is experiencing symptoms of dehydration, have them sip water, a sports drink with electrolytes, diluted fruit juice, or suck on ice chips or popsicles made with fruit juice. If you suspect severe dehydration, go to the emergency room.

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