Feeling the Heat

By Deborah Jeanne Sergeant

Although the summer weather feels good, too much heat and sun can cause health problems.

Here are some of the most common issues associated with high temperatures:

Skin Damage

Sun exposure — not temperature — can cause skin cancer. However, most exposure happens during the warmer months of the year.

The American Academy of Dermatology Association named skin cancer as the most common kind of cancer nationwide, with 20% of the population receiving a diagnosis at some point, totaling 9,500 new diagnoses daily. The five-year survival rate is 99% if caught early. However, once it spreads to nearby lymph nodes, that drops to 68% and if it spreads to more distant lymph nodes, it plummets to 30%.

Limiting sun exposure can significantly decrease the risk of skin cancer.

“Sunscreen is extremely important,” said Christy L. Richards, registered nurse and health educator with Ontario County Public Health. “The CDC recommends 15 SPF sunscreen with UVA and UVB filter. Reapply after sweating a lot, swimming and towel drying and every two hours.”

Women who wear makeup should apply sunscreen first or ask a dermatologist about two-in-one products like a tinted moisturizer with SPF or foundation containing SPF. Water-resistant products are recommended during exercise or swimming. Covering the skin and wearing broad-brimmed hats and sunglasses can also help, as well as avoiding exposure to the sun at midday. According to the EPA, “nearly half of UV radiation is received between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., when the sun’s rays are the strongest.” But keep in mind that even on a cloudy day, it’s possible to be sunburned.

Heat Exhaustion / Heatstroke

If the body becomes too hot, untreated heatstroke can damage the brain, heart, kidneys and muscles. Pregnant women can experience pre-term delivery. Richards said that the very young, elderly people and those engaging in heavy physical activity are all more prone to heat exhaustion and heatstroke.

“Limit alcohol, stay in the shade and wear loose, breathable fabric,” Richards said. “Stay in a place where there’s A/C and if you don’t have it, go to places that are air conditioned when it gets really warm. We usually put out a heat warning.”

Schedule outdoor activities in the early morning or evening, not during the hottest parts of the day. Wearing light-colored, loose-fitting clothing and drinking fluids can help prevent heat exhaustion and heatstroke.

“It’s important to stay hydrated and be mindful of the symptoms of heatstroke,” said Adrienne Goodman-LaMora, doctor of Chinese medicine and owner of Longevity Complementary Care in Macedon.

Heat exhaustion leads to heatstroke if untreated. Heat exhaustion manifests with higher body temperature, cool, sweaty and clammy skin, thirst, head and body aches, slow pulse, and feeling faint. By the time a person reaches the stage of heatstroke, the body is not sweating as much, exhibits hot, flushed skin and the person feels nauseated, confused or possibly unconscious.

“You have to meet your basic hydration needs and if you’re outside and sweating, you have to replace those,” said Sue Czap, registered dietitian with URMC.

Caffeinated beverages can cause more fluid loss, so water is a better choice. Most healthy people need to drink half their weight in ounces each day, so a 130-pound person would need about 65 ounces of fluids daily. That’s a little more than eight glasses of 8 ounces each.

Juice, tea and other beverages count towards that total, but Czap encourages clients to reach for water as the go-to beverage choice, as it’s free of calories. To keep it more flavorful and appealing, she recommends adding cucumber slices, fruit or herbs like basil, mint, dill or tarragon.