Being Safe in the Summer Sun

Each season brings its own kind of fun and enjoyment, but with this also come a special set of challenges. And summer has no exceptions. As the sun beats down and the air heats up, remember these 5 important tricks to help you stay safe and healthy for the rest of the summer.


1. Stay hydrated, stay healthy.

Water is essential to life, as well as helping to maintain a clear mind and working body. Because your body is roughly 60 percent water, it is necessary to maintain hydration levels by replenishing the water used by your body throughout the day. Mild dehydration produces symptoms including headache, decreased energy, and urine/sweat output. Severe dehydration can lead to swelling of the brain, seizures, kidney failure, and even death. Although many people fail to drink enough water, it is also possible to over-hydrate. To avoid over-hydration while exercising in the summer sun, sip, don't chug. A general rule of thumb for how much water to drink is 1/2 your body weight in ounces. So, a 150 lb person would try for about 75 oz of water a day.


2. Embrace safe and healthy sun exposure.

The sun can actually be healthy for you. Think about it - throughout history, people have survived while spending significant amounts of their time outdoors, so why shouldn't we be able to also? Modern research has found that while excessive exposure to sunlight can increase the risk of certain types of skin cancer, moderate sun exposure is actually less dangerous than sporadic exposure. Research has also shown that sun exposure without sunburn may significantly decrease the risk of melanoma, one of the more deadly forms of skin cancer. Research has also shown a significant difference between the sun's UVA rays, which can have negative effects on the skin, and its UVB rays, which help your body produce necessary vitamin D. UVA rays are prominent at all times of the day, but UVB rays are specific to midday sunlight. Safe and healthy sun exposure is about timing, exposure training, and taking precautions to avoid sunburn. Go ahead and enjoy the summer sun, but protect your skin from sunburn using clothing, shade, and healthy sunscreen.



3. Love your sunscreen.

Sunscreen is important because the sun's UVA rays can damage the skin. Some sunscreens prevent sunburn but not other types of skin damage, so it is important to make sure your sunscreen offers broad-spectrum protection. Avoid sunscreen containing vitamin A, also called retinyl palmitate or retinol, as these may carry adverse health effects down the road. You should also avoid products containing oxybenzone, a synthetic estrogen that can disrupt your hormones. Instead, look for products containing zinc oxide, 3% avobenzone, or Mexoryl SX which will protect your skin from harmful UVA radiation. EWG's Best Sunscreens is an excellent guide. With information on some 700 SPF-rated products, high ratings are given to brands that provide broad-spectrum, long-lasting protection using ingredients that carry fewer health concerns. You might also want to peruse your local natural grocery for natural, safe sunscreens.


4. Protect with clothing.

Clothing is one of the best ways to protect your skin from sunburn. Wear a hat to protect your delicate scalp and face from over-exposure to the sun. Remember your sunglasses they can help protect your eyes from UV radiation which can cause cataracts. Wearing light-colored clothing will not only reflect the sun's rays, keeping you cooler than dark colors but will also help limit bug bites.


5. Repel bugs naturally.

Bug bites not only itch, but they can also transmit potentially deadly diseases such as the West Nile virus and Lyme disease. Choosing the right bug repellant for you is very important. DEET, a common ingredient in synthetic bug repellants, can be toxic. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends using repellents containing picaridin or lemon eucalyptus oil instead. Natural repellents containing citronella work well also.



Tour of the Mints (Mentha)

A historic plant with origins dating back to ancient Greek mythology, and medicinal applications dating back to medieval monks, mint comes in hundreds of varieties. Some mint varieties, including peppermint, spearmint, and chocolate mint, are most often used for culinary purposes. Others, such as field mint, are more often valued for their therapeutic and medicinal qualities and used to treat ailments including headache, indigestion, heartburn, insomnia, and gas. Still, some mint varieties are best used simply for their aroma or appearance.


Corsican mint is one of the best-known mint varieties and is most often used to make mint jelly to accompany a meal of lamb chops, but it also has medicinal properties. Corsican mint has calming, anti-spasmodic effects that help reduce anxiety, stress, and headaches. It can also be used as an anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory. Its aroma, like that of most mints, will help calm the mind and relax the senses. Additionally, this mint has the ability to stimulate appetite and reduce gas. Topically, the essential oil of Corsican mint can even help relieve pain and ease tension in muscles. Peppermint, another commonly used mint variety, has been found to help relieve symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, asthma, and nasal symptoms of colds related to allergies, and even to limit some bacterial and fungal growth. Nutritionally, peppermint is also a good source of manganese, copper, and vitamin C.

There are many ways to enjoy mint. Try a cup of fresh mint tea, add some to a fruit salad, or add chopped mint leaves to soups that feature tomatoes. To store fresh mint leaves, carefully wrap them in a damp paper towel and place the pack inside a loosely closed plastic bag. If refrigerated this way, the leaves should keep for several days. Mints are fast-growing, aromatic herbs, which grow well in container gardens with moist, well-draining soil, set in full to partial sun. Many will also grow well indoors, making it possible to utilize mint year-round.