Healthy Summer Tips

Summer HydrationSummer should be a fun and relaxing time for families and pets. It can be if you follow some simple tips to stay healthy and safe.

Hydration

Most importantly keep hydrated. Many things that we do in summer can dehydrate our body so drinking pure water is essential. How much should we drink? That is a controversy that still has no simple answer. If you are out in the sun you need more water as the sun can dehydrate you. If you exercise and perspire, you will need more water, since perspiring will lead to dehydration.  Drinking caffeinated and/or sugar laden beverages can cause dehydration (although it is now controversial about caffeine causing dehydration) so it is best to switch to pure water instead of soft drinks or sweet tea.

The Mayo Clinic defines the symptoms of mild dehydration as:

  • Sleepiness or tiredness — children are likely to be less active than usual
  • Thirst
  • Dry, sticky mouth
  • Decreased urine output — no wet diapers for three hours for infants and eight hours or more without urination for older children and teens
  • Few or no tears when crying
  • Dry skin
  • Headache
  • Constipation
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness

If you have any of these symptoms while out in the sun or playing outside, please immediately drink more pure water. It also means that you are not drinking enough or not paying attention to your water consumption. It is essential to have some water every half hour or so; that’s why you see people passing out water at marathons and races. Drinking 2-3 quarts of water daily is recommended.

Years ago in hot climates like Texas, they had salt tablets in machines in the airport for people to take who were not used  to the sun and heat. They don’t seem to anymore because someone has gotten the idea that salt is bad and can cause hypertension. This is a yin/yang controversy! Sodium (salt/yang) retains water; potassium (often found in fresh fruits/yin) releases it. If you are outside in the summer and getting a lot of exercise and perspiring a lot it might be a good idea to have some salted nuts with you if you begin to feel dehydrated and are drinking water and it doesn’t seem to help.

In India when I was there in the desert on a pilgrimage they served salted nuts and salted tomato soup almost every day. Many of the people wouldn’t eat them because they weren’t ‘health food ‘. I brought little plastic baggies and saved as many salted cashews as I could. Then when one of the individuals on our tour was fatigued and exhausted, I gave them a few of the nuts and they came around in a few minutes. It wasn’t magic, it was science!

In hot sunny countries they generally wear white outside in the heat because it reflects the heat. Black can attract the heat so it is best to avoid black if you are trying to keep cool outside.

Oi-Lin® Sunmilk Sunscreen SPF 25

Sun Protection

Wear loose clothing that covers your body or special sun protective clothing that filters out the harmful UV rays. Many sporting goods stores carry this special clothing and if you are going to be in a place that has more sun than you are used to it could be a life saver.

Bare body parts should also be protected with a natural sunscreen or sunblock. Most require reapplication after going in the water or perspiring so read the labels. For more information on the importance of sunscreen read: “Sunscreen Isn’t Just for the Beach.”

Bug Protection

Bugs are never wanted at a picnic, BBQ, or any outdoor activities; and here are some tips to keep them away. Keep food covered so that bugs are not attracted to it.

Wear the appropriate clothing. Mosquitos can only see dark colors so if you are going to be in an area where there are mosquitos do not wear dark colors, including blue. Mosquitos can drill right through blue jeans. They cannot see bright colors so wear them when there are mosquitoes.

Unfortunately the opposite is true of flies and bees. They love bright colors especially the colors of flowers like red, yellow, pink, and pale lilac. So this is the time to wear blue and black to avoid being bitten by bees and files.  Even no-see-ums can be attracted to dark colors, so avoid them in the spring or early summer when these pesky little bugs are biting. If you are truly allergic to bee stings remember to bring your epi pen with you in case of an emergency.

Avoid sweets and sweet foods like bananas that might attract bugs right to your skin. There are actually some people that find their skin gives off a sweet smell in the sun and they are hounded by bugs, so it is useful for them to follow the bug avoidance color schemes in their clothing.

Do not wear scents on your skin or hair. If you are sensitive to bugs and they are in season always shower off all the scents before going out so that the scent doesn’t attract these little pests. This is true for both you and your pets.

The major exception to wearing scents is that lavender essential oil is known for repelling bugs. You might also want to burn a citronella candle outside to repel bugs. They can be purchased at most hardware and drug stores. Although some people use it on their skin others have found it irritating, so test it first.

Pennyroyal herb is an excellent bug repellant and works on mosquitos, flies, and even fleas. If you have the plant in your herb garden just cut off a small branch and lightly bruise it and rub it on your skin or make a tea of it to splash on. Do not use it if you are pregnant! I used to make a tea of it with the fresh leaves and carry it with me when I was hiking in the swamp. When the bugs started to come too close I just splashed some on me. It worked every time.

Essential Oil Bug Repellant

2 cups distilled water

10 drops essential oil of pennyroyal

2-4 drops each of eucalyptus and lemongrass essential oils to cover up the smell of the pennyroyal which some people find objectionable. Or you could use essential oil of lavender for the scent and get doubly protected from bugs.

Shake it well and put it in a shaker or spray bottle and you are ready to go.

Spray it on exposed skin, pets, tents, screens, even the table cloths before food is put out and you will have bug protection. Keep it away from eyes, lips, and noses because it might sting. It is not dangerous to ingest it (unless you are pregnant) but not a good idea.

Many natural pet supply stores carry pennyroyal collars for pets or just apply some of the essential oil of pennyroyal to the underside of their regular collar and a drop or two near the tail.

I try to stay away from products containing DEET because it can be a dangerous chemical to some people. This video from mosquito expert Howard Carter explains how DEET’s chemical is toxic to you and the environment.

Healthy Food and Snacks

During summer it is also important to eat healthy foods. Carry snacks with you of unsalted nuts and seeds or fresh veggie sticks. Unsweetened and unsulfured dried fruit and fruit rolls are good unless you are going to be outside in the sun and worry about attracting bugs, then you will want to avoid the dried fruits.

Salads with lots of really green veggies like romaine and leaf lettuce, spinach, arugula, parsley, and kale are great in the summer. Cucumbers and radishes are refreshing additions to salads along with sweet red, yellow, or orange peppers. Add some nuts and seeds or smoked tofu for protein and you will have a fabulous salad meal. Choose a light dressing of oil and lemon or apple cider vinegar. Any herbs will add to the flavor and aroma and should be chopped and added to the dressing for the most potent effect. Try using marjoram, rosemary, mint, basil, or dill for a tasty treat. If you are traveling put the salad in a sealed container and the dressing in a glass jar. Assemble when you are ready to eat.

If you are going to a National Park, many of them are now serving healthier foods including vegan and vegetarian choices. Take a look at which parks serve these healthy foods before you head out for a day trip or make your reservation for camping.

Have a healthy summer!

Photo credit: © Yanc | Dreamstime Stock Photos & Stock Free Images