By Jana Soeldner Danger
City & Shore Magazine
The laid-back days of summer can mean more time to spend outdoors, but it’s also a time to be more watchful about how we take care of ourselves. South Florida summers can be brutally hot, and working and playing in extreme heat can result in unpleasant consequences.
How best to avoid them?
Water, Water Everywhere
“Make sure to stay hydrated,” says Dr. Rachel Harris, a family practice physician at Holy Cross Urgent Care in West Boca Raton. “Drink 30 to 50 ounces of fluid every day.”
Mimosas and lattes don’t count. “It shouldn’t include alcoholic or caffeinated beverages,” Dr. Harris says.
Don’t wait until you’re feeling parched. Instead, drink small amounts throughout the day. “Thirst is a poor way to judge your hydration,” says Dr. Jonathan Albert, an internal medicine physician at Bethesda Hospital East, part of Baptist Health. Sports drinks may be beneficial for adults engaged in outdoor activities for an hour or more. “But we don’t recommend them for kids, because they’re too high in sugar and electrolytes,” Dr. Albert says.
Becoming dehydrated and overheated can cause the heart to race or skip beats, says Dr. Daniel Weitz, a cardiac electrophysiologist and cardiologist in Fort Lauderdale. “That can make people feel very uncomfortable,” he says.
Dehydration and overheating can also cause fainting. “People underestimate how fast passing out can happen,” Dr. Weitz says. “If you’ve over-exerted and you’re not feeling right or getting dizzy, don’t try to push through. Sit down and put your feet up and wait for it to pass. Ask for a cold glass of water or a cold towel.”
Other symptoms of overheating, or heat exhaustion, can include muscle cramps, headaches, excessive sweating and cold, clammy skin. If not taken care of, a person may progress to the most serious heat-related illness, heat stroke, which can damage the brain, heart, kidneys and muscles. Body temperature increases, sweating stops, the skin changes from pale to red and the person may have a throbbing headache and feel confused.
Heat stroke is a medical emergency, and the victim must be cooled down immediately by removing unnecessary clothing and applying cold compresses to the head, neck, face and groin, Dr. Harris says. Seek medical help as soon as possible.
The Eyes Have It
Sunglasses aren’t just for fashion. Exposing the eyes to sunlight over time may increase the risk of cataracts, Dr. Harris says. Wear lenses with ultraviolet protection when outdoors or driving on sunny days.
Keeping Locks Lovely
Sun, salt and chlorine can be tough on hair. “You also may be shampooing more often in summer, which can remove natural oils and make hair look dull and more prone to breakage,” says Dr. Alan Bauman, a hair restoration surgeon in Boca Raton. Hats protect from the sun, of course, but some sprays also offer UV protection for hair.
Especially in summer, it’s important to find the right balance of shampoo and conditioner for your hair type. Someone with an oily scalp might need a deep-cleansing shampoo and a mild conditioner, Dr. Bauman says. An individual with coarse or curly hair, or damage from the elements or processing, will probably need a stronger conditioner, or a leave-in product. Individuals with severe hair damage may want to get a professional scalp evaluation, he says.
More than skin deep
Be faithful about protecting skin from the sun’s harmful rays. “Sunscreen is one of the most important things for people who are active,” Dr. Albert says. “It’s really for all year around. I tell people to use it daily, not just when they’re going to the beach or boating.”
Don’t forget the part in your hair and areas where hair may be receding. “Everyone knows you need sunscreen on your face, but you need it on your scalp, too,” Dr. Bauman says.
Many people don’t use enough sunscreen. Apply approximately an ounce, or the amount it would take to fill a shot glass, Dr. Harris says. “Use a sunscreen that’s broad spectrum and water resistant,” she adds.
An SPF of 30 is usually adequate, Dr. Albert says. “But it’s important to reapply every two hours, especially if you’re sweating profusely or jumping into the water.”
Try to choose a product that’s environmentally friendly. Studies have found that oxybenzone and octinoxate, chemicals found in some sunscreens, may be toxic to coral. Those products have been banned in Key West, but beachgoers in other parts of South Florida should also be aware of the danger. “There are certainly other options,” Dr. Albert says.
Better diagnostic tools
Unprotected sun exposure increases the risk of skin cancer, which is extremely prevalent in South Florida. “We’re number two in the world, after Australia,” says Dr. Kristin Haushalter, a dermatologist with the Miami Cancer Institute’s new Multidisciplinary Skin Cancer Clinic.
The clinic is home to the Vectra, a new tool for early detection, especially for melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer. The machine is one of 13 in the world and six in the United States. The ground-breaking 3D imaging technology uses 92 cameras to take simultaneous photos of the whole body in one second – without radiation, Dr. Haushalter says.
The procedure is especially beneficial for someone with a large number of moles. “We can look at moles at baseline and follow how they change over time,” Dr. Haushalter says. The clinic also offers a noninvasive procedure that uses confocal microscopy to take images of skin lesions at the cellular level. “It’s like a virtual biopsy,” Dr. Haushalter says.