With Memorial Day Weekend approaching, the unofficial start to summer is upon us.
Summer seemingly catches us by surprise each year, judging from the sunburns and accidents, which are as predictable as the sunrise.
Sunburns are worth avoiding, especially when young. They do DNA damage that can have a lasting impact on the health of your skin. Although young people traditionally are sure they will be the first generation not to age, if they do, they will have double the Melanoma rate due to those long-forgotten childhood sunburns.
If skin cancer in the distant future – at the advanced age of 40 or 50 – isn’t motivation enough to cover up, perhaps we can appeal to vanity.
A recent study compared people who routinely applied sunblock (every day) to those who applied it only when they thought it was needed. When compared, the sunblock group had 24 percent less visible skin aging.
This study has been replicated and has held up well. Wearing sunblock every day will visibly help you beat the clock.
Food is a focal point of summer celebrations, and food plus heat means some prudence is justified.
High temperature like the 160 degrees of the grill kills bacteria. Low temperatures in the range of 40 degrees (refrigerator or ice chest) slow down the multiplication of bacteria to almost zero.
So eating food right off the grill or right out of the refrigerator is quite safe. But food that spends considerable time at the elevated ambient temperatures of summer (90 to 100 degrees) quickly becomes loaded with bacteria. Eat it, and you will start your summer in a very bad way. It will put you off your beer and BBQ at the worst possible time.
Speaking of beer, did you know that it’s not an ideal summer rehydration beverage? Alcohol is a diuretic, which means you urinate more liquid than you drink (“that explains it”).
What you really need is water. The body is not too particular about the flavorings in the water as long as you stay clear of diuretics. Iced tea, lemonade, sports beverage, vitamin water, or my personal favorite – an inch of OJ in a jug of water – all work well.
The other thing to remember in the heat is don’t wait until your body is screaming with thirst to hydrate. Do that and you will be introduced to heat exhaustion, another way to ruin a day.
Barbecuing is almost as traditional on Memorial Day as American flags. In these days of instant gratification, propane has replaced briquettes as the favored heat source.
Propane is 1.5 times the density of air. That small fact is responsible for many of the BBQ injuries every Memorial Day. Turn on the gas and it pools in the bottom of the BBQ. Wait a few seconds for the pool of gas to grow deeper, and the ignition will singe your eyebrows, or worse.
A simple tip for avoiding the possibility of these dangerous flames: patience. If your grill doesn’t light right away, turn the gas off and create a little wind to blow out the propane gas in the bottom of the grill. Then start again, putting match to burner as soon as the gas goes on.
School is ending soon and kids will have the summer off. All our schedules lighten up a bit and there is time for some backyard fun.
However, don’t spoil the fun. Be careful around the grill, keep the sunblock and iced tea handy, and you will have a much better chance of experiencing a great summer.
Donald Bucklin, MD (Dr. B) is a Regional Medical Director for U.S. HealthWorks and has been practicing clinical occupational medicine for more than 25 years. Dr. B. works in our Scottsdale, Arizona clinic.
Images courtesy/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net