Enjoy summer, stay healthy: Experts’ advice that bears reminding

As temperatures rise in July and August, prevention is the first step in keeping safe and healthy through the killer summer months

As temperatures rise in the stifling months of July and August, it is important to be aware of how much sun one gets to avoid heat-related illnesses like heat exhaustion and heat stroke.

Prevention is the first step in keeping safe and healthy through the killer summer months.

Charmaine Gauci, Superintendent of Public Health, told MaltaToday that certain people are at a greater risk than others: they include the elderly, babies and children aged up to four, and those suffering from chronic conditions such as heat and lung problems, high blood pressure, liver and kidney diseases.

“People on medication are also more at risk from the effects of heat, as well as those who suffer from mobility problems,” he said.

In order to minimise health risks during the hot summer months’ people should take the necessary precautions. “Staying hydrated, is especially important during the summer months. It’s best to drink plain cool water, and avoid coffee, tea and alcohol as they tend to dehydrate.”

Gauci said it is particularly important to check in on the elderly, to make sure they’re consuming enough water during the summer months. “As we get older, we develop decreased sensation in thirst. As such elderly persons might not realise they’re not getting enough liquids, and need to be reminded,” she said.  

It is also important to eat light and regular meals. “In the summer, it’s better to avoid hot food such as soups unless it’s something like gazpacho or other similar cool dishes.”

Naturally, wearing appropriate clothing during the summer months, preferable those that are loose-fitting, is recommended. “It’s best to wear light-coloured clothes that cover as much skin as possible, and when going outdoors wear a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses.”

One should also check their skin for changing patterns of freckles regularly. “The earlier doctors catch cancerous freckles, the better the survival rate… if persons notice that their freckles or moles have changed in pattern, size, or begin to bleed they should visit a doctor immediately.”

Outdoors, persons should also be wearing sunblock, with a factor of at least 30+. Children should be kept inside when possible during the hottest parts of the day between 12pm and 2.30pm. “In Malta, we have both UVA and UVB, which can cause a tremendous amount of damage to the skin. UV can build over time, especially in children, and can lead to cancer later in life,” she said. Gauci recommended not going to the beach for full days.

It is also imperative not to leave children or animals inside hot cars, as it could lead to death. Gauci said a child’s body heats up three to five times faster than an adult’s body. “Children have a lot of body surface area that absorbs heat, and their bodies have not yet developed the ability to cool down well.”

And it is just as dangerous to leave a dog in a car, adding that it only takes up to six minutes for a dog to die when locked in a hot car in summer. “People don’t need to take their dogs with them when they go shopping, it’s best to leave them at home.”

She also said that persons who own houses should remain as much as possible on the bottom floors, as heat rises. “When inside a room, the curtains should be drawn and surprisingly the door should be shut: often the thought process is that if the door is open air will flow freely, making the room cooler, however instead what usually happens is heat gets through and makes the room hotter.

Gauci added that curtains in rooms that get a lot of sun can have a “protective effect”.

She recommends that persons also avoid using the stove and oven if not necessary as these devices raise the temperature of the kitchen, and rooms close by.

If people experience symptoms of heat exhaustion, such as cramps in their arms, legs or stomach, if persons feel weak or have problems sleeping, it is best to stay inside and drink lots of water. “If the symptoms continue to persist, visit a doctor.”

More in Health