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Heat Awareness

Thankfully, summer is not far away now at least in the northern hemisphere. Increasingly summers are hotter and drier. So it’s a good time to have the National Heat Awareness Day. It’s celebrated on the last Friday of May and so this year falls on 27 May.  

The idea of the day is to alert employers and the public about the largely preventable health dangers connected to summer heat. This is all the more important for anyone who is vulnerable or works outside as they are candidates for sunburn, heat exhaustion, dehydration, heatstroke and even death. It’s not just manual workers, but children, the elderly, anyone with certain chronic medical conditions and pregnant women need to take precautions.

So what can you do if you know it’s going to be hot? Well, the most important thing is to stay well hydrated. Drink water regularly and carry some with you in case your plans change. Also, if you can, avoid going outside at the hottest part of the day and limit your activity. As Sam Keen (American Author) put it, “Deep summer is when laziness finds respectability”.

An anti skin cancer campaign, popular in Australia and New Zealand in the 1980s provides very good advice. Originally just “slip, slop, slap” (slip on a shirt, slop on sunscreen, and slap on a hat) it has since been expanded to the 5 S’s sun safe measures.

  • Slip on a shirt.
  • Slop on SPF 30+ broad spectrum UVA sunscreen
  • Slap on a wide brimmed hat.
  • Slide on quality sunglasses.
  • Shade from the sun where possible.

Another factor that you should be aware of is humidity or the amount of moisture in the air. High humidity will make the temperature feel warmer, as our sweat is slower to evaporate. This can makes it more likely that our bodies may overheat, we exhaust easily, and it poses a potential danger to our health.

And now, a few words on sunscreen and SPF (Sun Protection Factor) values. In theory, combined with the “burn time” (how long you can be in the sun before burning), it will allow you calculate how long you can safely be in the sun. So, if the burn time is 10 minutes and you apply SPF 10 sunscreen you will safe in the sun for 100 minutes (10 times 10). In practice, this is only a guide, its dependent on your skin type (how fair or dark it is) and how well and completely the sunscream was applied. So, I think it’s better to regard the SPF number as a relative measure of the amount of sunburn protection provided. The higher the number the better the protection.

Finally, Baz Luhrmann (Australian Director, Writer and Producer) wrote a song about the importance of sunscreen. It also contains other excellent advice. It’s very much a philosophy to live your life by and I recommend it. Enjoy.

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