health summerThere’s really no time like summer.

The sun is warm, the food is fresh, people are happy – and it’s easy to maintain GREAT summer health.

It just takes a little bit of planning.

Because you want to be able to embrace and enjoy every day of summer!

Be Sun Smart

Nobody wants to have to hide indoors all summer. Luckily, you don’t have to.

The latest research indicates that we might have taken previous admonitions to avoid the sun a little too seriously.

Turns out, some sun can really contribute to summer health.

Very light-skinned people only need about ten minutes of direct sunlight, three days a week to get its health benefits.

The darker your skin, the longer you’ll need sun exposure. But remember, no matter the tone of your skin, by the time you’re feeling discomfort, it’s probably too late.

So, the key is to be sun smart.

  • Use a natural sunblock, every day. Mainstream sunscreens can be as bad for your health as the sun damage you’re trying to protect. But natural sunscreens work just as well at preventing sun damage AND don’t cause any of their own issues. Look for mineral sunscreens that have at least an SPF of 30. And stay away from products with chemicals like oxybenzone, homosalate, retinyl palmitate, octocrylene or that contain chemicals that end in “-one” “-ate” or “-ene.”
  • …Even on the cloudy days. To really protect your summer health, remember the sun’s rays can burn and damage even on cloudy days. Far too many people think that because it’s overcast, they don’t need sunscreen. Or because they’re only running errands, not “going out in the sun” that they don’t need sunscreen. The truth is that you should wear sunscreen even when it’s cloudy and almost all the time.
  • Once you’ve gotten the few minutes of sun you need for optimal summer health, stay out of the sun between 10:00 am and 4:00 pm. That’s when the sun is strongest, and can do the most damage.
  • Take some shade with you. Because, really, who’s going to avoid the sun between ten in the morning and four? Use your sunscreen, but keep portable shade close, too. Hats, with rims at least four inches, make for fashionable and effective sun protection. Light, long-sleeved clothing can help block the sun’s rays. And, of course, sunglasses.

Avoid Bugs

While this may seem like a no-brainer, it’s even more important this year with the Zika virus making it to American shores.

But any mosquitos, bees, ticks, and red ants can kill a summer day if you get bitten!

  • Use natural bug repellant. Maintain summer health AND an all-natural lifestyle with essential oils to ward off insects. Oil of lemon eucalyptus, basil, thyme, lavender, mint, tea tree…they all work as an insect repellant. Don’t use them full-strength directly on skin. Instead mix them with a carrier oil or witch hazel – or spray them around the room!
  • Wear long sleeves and pants. The same step that can help you avoid sun damage can help you avoid bugs, too! For best results, make sure your sleeves are tight around your wrists and tuck your pants into socks and boots. Just make sure you choose fabrics that breathe, so you don’t overheat.
  • Avoid standing water. From a lake to a gutter, if the water isn’t flowing freely, it will attract mosquitoes. Make sure you keep your yard free of standing water and watch where you set up camp.
  • Use air conditioning or screens. Keeping your windows closed and you’re a.c. running is a good way to avoid bugs – but some summer nights beg for the fresh air to be let in. At those times, make sure your windows have screen that don’t have holes in them and fit well.

Indulge safely

Even food is different this time of year. What you cook and how you cook it is all a little more laid back.

There’s no reason to sacrifice safety for flavor though!

  • Be a true grill master. If you’re cooking in your own backyard or on the beach, slip a meat thermometer in with your tongs to make sure that everything comes to safe temperature. And be especially careful of cross contamination. Even at the grill, you need two separate plates – one for the raw meat and one for the cooked!
  • Forgo the frozen aisle. In wintertime, your best option very well might be frozen fruit and veggies, but not during summer. The easiest way to shake off the winter doldrums and boost summer health is to eat in season. Anyway, natural sugars are better for you than refined sugars, so indulge your sweet tooth while the fruit is ripe!
  • Be sure to stay hydrated. It’s easy to miss how dry you’re getting, but the results of dehydration are anything but subtle. Keep a water bottle close by and sip all day. It’s better than getting too thirsty and trying to catch up. You can also use decaffeinated herbal teas to help keep you hydrated while giving your taste buds a treat.
  • Watch your alcohol consumption. Since you are thirsty in summer, it’s easy to keep drinking beer…or daiquiris…or mojitos…and lose track of just how much you’ve had. Unfortunately, alcohol speeds up dehydration and prevents your body from moderating its heat level. In other words, not only are you dehydrating, you’re also losing your ability to cool down. For summer health, even more than other times of year, watch how much alcohol you’re drinking and be sure to have several glasses of water for every adult beverage you consume.

Use Common Sense

Summer is a little more relaxed, a bit more spontaneous. We get it. But you still shouldn’t check your common sense at the door until autumn arrives.

  • Get your gear in order. Maybe you’re taking off for three weeks on the trail. Or a month at the campground. Or maybe you’re just going snorkeling for the day. Whatever you’re doing, though, be sure to double check all your gear before you head out. The middle of nowhere is not a good place to realize your mosquito netting has a hole.
  • Don’t overdo it in the heat. Heat exhaustion and heat stroke are real things, and can be dangerous. Rest as much as you play. If you start feeling the least bit like something is wrong, get inside, get cool, and get water. And if you or someone you are with start to exhibit signs of confusion, clammy skin, or high fever, seek medical attention immediately.
  • Don’t swim – or hike – alone. It doesn’t matter how physically strong you are. Accidents happen. And when you’re in a pool, the ocean, or along a hiking trail, the margin of error is very thin. Have an activity buddy with you at all times.

We said it before, we’ll say it again: there’s really no time like summer.

And summer health is so easy to achieve. Be smart, use common sense, and you’re bound to have the best summer yet!