In the UK, the Summer Holidays are drawing closer, and alongside all the days off in the sunshine come a wide variety of health hazards to be aware of. From sunburns and insect bites, to hydration and healthy eating, it is important that you take the appropriate measures whilst enjoying that rare British sunlight. In this article, we will explore a range of easy summer health tips to take note of and apply, and the role health insurance can play in your summer health plan.
Please note: the information presented in this blog is correct as of 13th July 2021, and has been sourced directly from the relevant health insurance providers and external information sources.
1. Sun Safety
One of the most common health risks that comes with the territory of summer, is the sun. Spending time outside and in the sunlight with family and friends is what many people consider to be their happiest times of the year, but doing so can present a few hazards to your health, which you will need to consider in the coming months.
Wearing the appropriate sunscreen
If you are anticipating spending vast amounts of time in the direct sunlight, then buying and applying the appropriate sunscreen is non-negotiable. Sunscreens, or sun creams, are rated by values of SPF (Sun Protection Factors), on a scale of 2 to 50. The higher the value on the SPF scale, the more protection the cream will give you protection against the harmful UV radiation that the sun gives out.
Sun creams in the UK will also have a star rating system out of 5. This rating measures the amount of UVA radiation that the product will protect you from; the higher the star rating is, the more effective it will be. Failing to use sunscreen effectively over a prolonged period of time can result in sunburns and, in the severest of cases, severe conditions like skin cancer. Make sure to apply thoroughly on all exposed areas of your body, and reapply over the day.
Sunscreen & swimming
When wearing sunscreen down by the beach or around a swimming pool, it is important to be aware of the fact that water washes off many different types of sunscreen. The cooling sensation of being in water can trick you into thinking that you are not getting burnt, and the reflective surface of water can even increase your exposure to UV rays. It is vital that you either use waterproof variants of sunscreen when likely to get wet, or properly towel off and reapply when water washes most of it away.
Wearing sun-safe clothing
Alongside wearing the correct variant of sunscreen for the conditions you are in, you must also make sure to wear sun appropriate clothing when spending time in the sun. Choose breathable clothes made from lighter materials such as cloth and linen; to prevent overheating. Adding sun protective hats and caps can also protect your eyes and the skin of your neck and face from sun damage.
Protect your eyes
When it comes to sun damage (and damage in general), your eyes are some of the most fragile parts of your body, very susceptible to risk and thus require adequate protection. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, skin cancer of the eyelid accounts for up to 10% of all cases of skin cancer, and at least 10% of cataract cases can be traced back to UV exposure. Without proper protection, you risk sustaining injuries such as corneal sunburns, cataracts, melanomas and even some variants of cancer. Wearing caps, sunhats and sunglasses are an easy way to protect your eyes this summer from harmful UV rays.
Limit the time you spend in the sun
While it is always very tempting to spend all day every day in the sunlight in the UK, to make the most of the summer before it goes away, you should be sensible in the amount of time you spend in direct sunlight. In the UK, the peak times for when the sun is harshest during summer is around 11AM to 3PM; one tip is to structure your days around when the sun is at its harshest, so as to avoid feeling uncomfortable and putting your health at risk.
2. Eating & drinking in the sun
The summer months are popular for countless different reasons, and eating and drinking out with your friends and family is one such reason. As well as protecting your body from the UV rays of the sun, you can adopt several eating and drinking habits over the summer that can help you to feel comfortable and healthy.
Making sure to stay fully hydrated throughout the day is one of the most important things to do when spending time out in the heat. Simply put, the longer you spend in hot conditions, the more you will sweat. A natural cooling mechanism that the body implements, sweating will cause your body to lose water, electrolytes and salt at a much faster rate, and these need to be replenished. It is essential to drink plenty of water throughout the day, and to carry water with you at all times to reduce the risk of dehydration.
Eating light meals
Another small measure you can take to protect your health during the summer months is to try to eat lighter meals. Heavy, fatty meals may have a tendency to raise the temperature of the body. In the summer, eating lighter foods and meals with a higher water content may help you to feel more refreshed and hydrated.
3. Repelling insects
One of the biggest drawbacks to spending time out in the sun is the amount of bugs and insects around that can be hazardous to your health. To protect yourself from all of the bites, stings and general nuisances of bugs like midges and mosquitoes, stocking up on different insect repellent measures is a recommended move.
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4. Considering hayfever
Hayfever is the colloquial name given to a common form of allergy to pollen and dust. It causes common cold-like symptoms such as itchy eyes, irritation to the sinuses, runny noses and congestion, and can vary in severity from person to person. Since rates of pollen in the air skyrocket during the summer months, hayfever can provide obstacles to many looking to enjoy the holidays. Treatments can range from simple salt water rinses for the nose and mouth to ease symptoms, to GP prescribed treatments such as steroid nasal sprays and hayfever relief tablets.
5. Coping during a heatwave
A heatwave is a period of excessively hot weather, characterised by much higher temperatures than normal and increased humidity in some instances. When experiencing a heatwave during the summer, all of the above risks we have discussed already are heightened; particularly risks of dehydration, overheating and even experiencing heat stroke. The measures remain the same, keep hydrated, stay out of the sun at the most intense parts of the day and take preventative measures against sun damage.
Heatwaves can however also be especially destructive towards the more vulnerable, such as the elderly, anyone with any underlying health conditions and those who work outside. For yourself and the more vulnerable you should be on the lookout for heat-related illnesses and their symptoms, which can include headaches, dizziness, a loss of appetite, high temperatures and a quickening pulse. To treat heat exhaustion, you can take the following steps as recommended by the NHS:
- Move the afflicted to a cooler place, and have them lie down with their feet elevated slightly.
- Provide plenty of water to help them rehydrate (sports drinks are also acceptable to use in these situations).
- Cool their skin with cold packs and water; you can use a spray, a sponge or a cloth to achieve this.
- Their condition should improve after around 30 minutes or so. The emergency services may be required if they do not improve.
6. Looking after children
It is especially important to take the proper measures to protect young adults and children during the summer from any heat related medical issues. Babies and children in particular have much more sensitive skin when compared to adults, and are therefore much more at risk from being damaged by the sun. It is recommended by the NHS that children under the age of 6 months be kept out of direct sunlight entirely, and when used sunscreen should be at the very least factor 30. Many also find that added vitamin D supplements can help to improve a child’s overall health during excessively hot summer months.
How health insurance can help
In the event that treatment is needed for conditions such as sunburn, bug bites or other summer related health hazards, access to private healthcare can be a great solution, providing high-quality treatment promptly. Many of the insurance providers that we work with even offer virtual appointments, so if you have a concern and you're not near a practice, you may be able to get the answers you need quickly. If you'd like to explore how health insurance can benefit you, please get in touch with us to discuss your needs.
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