For many people, summer is a welcome season. The warmer weather and increased daylight offer a chance to get active outdoors and spend more time in the sun.
But summer habits can also pose certain risks to well-being, like heat-related illnesses, overexposure to the sun and drowning.
QCity Metro spoke with three wellness experts to learn common practices for having a safer summer this year; here’s what they said.
Avoid the heat
Getting a workout in the fresh air can be an enjoyable way to maintain a healthy lifestyle for many. And during the summer, its common to see lots of people jogging the greenway, through local parks or even around Uptown and South End.
But outdoor fitness comes with increased risk for heat-related illnesses, including heat stroke, heat exhaustion, rashes and cramping, and even death. More than 700 people die each year in the United States from heat-related causes, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
One way to avoid heat-related illnesses is to avoid peak temperatures.
James Adams, a Charlotte-based personal trainer, recommends exercising during non-peak sunlight hours — before 9 a.m. and after 6 p.m.
Adams also recommends exercising indoors when temperatures are over 88 degrees.
Resistance training, such as weight lifting and cardiovascular training — like the stair climber or elliptical — are two options for an indoor workout, Adams said.
“There are just so many different things you can do inside,” he said.
Another way to avoid heat-related illnesses is to exercise in water, such as swimming.
“Swimming burns almost more calories than any other form of exercise,” Adams said. “It’s a great way to get your exercise in and have fun.”
Practice safe swimming
Swimming is a summertime favorite for many people, but it also poses safety risks.
Drownings are the leading cause of death among children 1-4 years old, according to the North Carolina Office of State Fire Marshal.
And two-thirds of fatal drownings occur between May and August, the North Carolina Office of State Fire Marshal’s website said.
QCity Metro spoke with Jahaan Norvell, an aquatics specialist at Mecklenburg County, about how to swim safely this summer.
When swimming, Norvell says to take note of any lifeguards and signs.
“It’s important to know if you’re going to be safe with somebody guarding you,” Norvell said. “Or if you have to be safe on your own.”
Norvell also recommends signing up for a swimming lesson, regardless of skill level.
“At least a level one swim class,” Norvell said. “Where you learn how to breathe, float and kick.”
“There’s no age that cannot learn [how to swim],” Norvell said.
It’s also important to shower before and after getting into a body of water. This helps to prevent bacteria or germs in the water.
Also, swim caps and goggles should be worn to protect the hair and eyes.
Protect the skin
As summer nears and temperatures rise, so does the intensity of ultraviolet rays, which can lead to skin cancer.
Sun protection is one of the most important things a person can do to take care of their skin, according to Tonya Shonelle McLeod, MD at Piedmont Plastic Surgery and Dermatology.
Black people produce higher rates of melanin — a naturally-occurring substance that provides the body’s pigment and helps protect it from sun damage — than their white counterparts, but this isn’t the only protection needed.
Black people are often diagnosed with melanoma, the most serious form of skin cancer, often at later stages, making treatment more difficult.
“There’s a myth in our community, so let’s go ahead and start off by debunking that myth,” McLeod said. “that Black people don’t need sunscreen.”
Furthermore, Black people who do develop skin cancer have a lower five-year survival rate. The five-year survival rate in the United States for Black patients was 66%, compared to 90% for non-Hispanic white patients, according to a 2019 CDC study.
“Skin, being the largest organ of the body, should take precedence,” McLeod said.
McLeod recommends wearing sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 every day, all year round, on areas not covered by clothing. A waterproof sunscreen should be used when swimming or sweating.
In the fall and winter months, McLeod says to focus on the face, neck, and hands; and in the spring and summer months, expand that coverage to include anything exposed to the sun.
Sunscreen should be reapplied every two hours on average, and every 30-60 minutes if swimming or sweating.
Three brands McLeod recommends for melanated skin are Black Girl Sunscreen, Alastin and Eltamd.
Mcleod also recommends wearing a hat during sunlight or going outdoors in the morning or late evenings.