June 13, 2016


Summer Smarts: How to Stay Cool (& Safe) When the Weather Heats Up

The summer season is approaching quickly, and while that tends to inspire a carefree lifestyle in all of us, we shouldn’t forget our health in the process. By being aware of the potential hazards to your health, you can take simple steps to ensure that you’re protecting yourself, your skin, and your overall health in the hottest months of the year.

In San Diego and Imperial counties, we’ve been warned to gear up for above-average temperatures from July through September this year. Combined with the ongoing drought, it’s especially important to be be aware of how to properly care for yourself and to remember that children and seniors are particularly vulnerable during these times.

For those who live in Imperial County—or inland from the shore—these practices become all the more important.

Here are some quick (but important!) tips to keep in mind:

1. Use sunscreen—but not just any sunscreen.

Wearing sunscreen, especially when the sun is at its peak between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m., is an important first step. But choosing the right sunscreen makes a big difference. Opt for a “broad spectrum” sunscreen that protects from both UVB and UVA rays. This will give you the most even protection and will be most likely to protect against burns.

Try to plan ahead by applying sunscreen before you leave the house (at least 15 minutes before you go outside). It takes this long to absorb into your skin and to provide full protection. If you go outside prior to this, you may not be protected, and you also run the risk of sweating off part or all of your sunscreen, which doesn’t absorb as well when the skin is wet.

2. Drink plenty of water and avoid dehydrating foods.

It’s a common question: Just how much water should I be drinking? The answer varies for each person, depending on your diet, weight, level of exercise, and a variety of other factors. In regular temperatures, the general consensus is at least three liters per day. This number goes up during hot months when you are losing more water through perspiration. Carry a glass or metal water bottle with you when you go out to ensure that you’re drinking water regularly.

While water is an excellent baseline, you can also incorporate other hydrating liquids that are low in sugar and high in electrolytes and eat water-rich foods like fruits and veggies. Try coconut water, natural fruit juices (not from concentrate and not containing added sugars), and lots of fruits and veggies. On the other hand, try to avoid beverages and foods that are dehydrating, particularly coffee and dairy products.

3. Choose your timing wisely.

During the summer months, the height of the day is the hardest on your body. With solar rays at their peak, you are more susceptible to dehydration, sunburns, and fatigue.

If possible, plan your outdoor activities for the morning (before 11:00 a.m.) or later in the afternoon (after 2:00 p.m.). This practice will help you avoid long-term sun exposure when the sun is at its peak.

4. Avoid direct sun exposure when possible.

When it’s hot out, we tend to pull out tank tops, shorts, and anything else that gives our skin some breathing room. But light, breathable clothing that covers more can often keep you cooler while protecting your skin from from the sun.

Recommended fabrics for hot days include linen, rayon, and cottons, because they’re “breathable” and allow for air circulation but still protect your skin from absorbing heat from the sun. Plan to wear a hat too. It will protect your scalp, and if it has a wider brim, your face and eyes will be covered as well.

5. Know your limit.

Fun in the sun is great…until it isn’t. Listen to your body and look out for signs of overheating or too much sun exposure.  Headaches, muscle aches, and general fatigue are all signs that it’s time to take a break, drink some water, and rest in the cool shade.

6. Look out for those at risk.

We should all be careful in the sun, but there are those of us who are at greater risk for these issues. Elderly family members and neighbors, especially those who live alone and are a fall risk, should be checked on regularly.

Children and infants are also more susceptible to heat-related illnesses and complications and should be kept out of direct sunlight during peak hours. Be sure they have sunscreen (if over the age of 6 months), plenty of water, and a hat or umbrella if possible.

7. Find a Cool Center near you.

As a dry, hot climate, San Diego and Imperial Counties are both equipped with Cool Centers throughout their counties that can help you stay cool, safe, and healthy during the summer months. These spaces are open to the general public, providing different amenities for entertainment and relaxation.

If you’d like to find a Cool Center near you, call 2-1-1 for information on locations and amenities.

You can also view a full list of cool centers along with their available amenities and hours online for both Imperial County and San Diego.

How do you keep yourself and your family cool and healthy while having fun in the summer months? I’d love to hear the tips and tricks that have worked for you!


– Nancy Sasaki, Executive Director
Alliance Healthcare Foundation

About Alliance Healthcare Foundation

Alliance Healthcare Foundation is a San Diego-based nonprofit which works with nonprofit, government and community agencies to advance health and wellness throughout the San Diego and Imperial Counties. AHF works to serve the most vulnerable – the poor, working poor, children and homeless by providing grants, advocacy and education to support its region.

To learn more about AHF, visit:   AHF on FacebookAHF on LinkedInAHF on Google+AHF on YouTubeAHF on Twitter

To learn more about our grantees, visit our Grantee Page

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