Summer, sun, holiday time and bathing fun: summer is the most wonderful time of the year for many people. However, the recent hot summer of 2018 showed that good health is as important as fun and relaxation. A new publication by the German Meteorological Service (DWD) and German Environment Agency (UBA) talks about how to handle the "shadow side" of summer.
Sunburn, heat exhaustion, heat rash and even heat collapse are all side effects of the otherwise beautiful summer and must be taken seriously. Very hot days can lead to health problems for everybody – also family and friends. The elderly in particular as well as infants and toddlers are at increased risk. Some of the effects include dehydration, aggravation of existing underlying diseases, heat cramp, or even sunstroke and heatstroke. Severe physical symptoms include circulatory distress, muscle cramps in the arms and legs, stomach cramps, headache, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, increased pulse rate, exhaustion or restlessness, disorientation and a dry mouth.
A new brochure entitled about Climate Change and Health (in German) provides information in compact form about the connections between heat exposure and health. It contains information presented in concise format about summertime heat and heatwaves in addition to advice about how to handle symptoms and take preventive action.
A few rules of thumb for summertime fun:
- Drink plenty of fluids on hot days. The best options are beverages which contain minerals such as water or tea. Avoid alcoholic beverages.
- Be particularly mindful of elderly people and children as they are especially vulnerable to the heat.
- Physical activity on hot days is recommended in the early morning, late afternoon or evening hours. Avoid heavy physical exertion in the midday heat.
- Take adequate precautions against ultraviolet radiation. The best protection against the sun's rays are to wear proper clothing and a sun hat and sunglasses. Sunscreen should be applied liberally to exposed skin.
High air temperatures and intensive solar radiation can form what is known as summer smog. Summer smog occurs when there are excessive levels of ground-level ozone and other air pollutants. It causes inflammation of the mucous membranes, decreased lung function, inflammatory reactions of the respiratory tract and overall impairment of physical strength.