Saturday, May 01, 2010
Don't let heat-related illness spoil summer fun at the lake
Finally, the eagerly awaited summer sun is in full force at Smith Mountain Lake.Its joyous rays signal the time for Lakers and SML guests to converge on the lake landscape with golf clubs, beach toys, fishing gear and wakeboards in tow.
Besides recreational items, lake lovers might want to add to the summer checklist good health habits, say local health and fitness experts, who offered some advice on dealing with sun, heat and hydration.
Dr. Marc Nevin, a physician with Gentle Laser Center at The Forum at Westlake, said one of the most common summer health concerns is excess sun exposure.
"Brief exposure to the sun is good for us because it produces vitamin D that is essential for good health," said Nevin. "Only a few minutes are needed to provide all the vitamin D you need, and beyond that, sun exposure causes serious damage to your skin — the largest and arguably the most important organ in your body."
Nevin said skin cancer is a threat to all ages.
"Skin cancer is reaching epidemic proportions in our country and around the world. It's not only a problem for older people; skin cancers can occur in young people as well. So if wrinkles don't worry you enough to protect your skin from the sun, skin cancer should make you very concerned," said Nevin, who has had 11 of his own skin cancers removed.
"I've learned the hard way how important it is to avoid excessive sun exposure," he said. "You may see me at the lake wearing a goofy hat. Now you know why."
Nevin's advice is to take every precaution to prevent too much sun exposure, even when its rays aren't so obvious.
"Aside from too much time in the sun, not using at least SPF 30 sunscreen, not reapplying sunscreen often,not wearing a hat and protective clothing, a very common mistake is forgetting that you can get too much sun on a cloudy day. UV rays penetrate clouds,reflect off the water and cause skin damage any day," he said.
Another potential health problem is dehydration. Fitness trainer Rob Jordan, owner of SML Wellness and Fitness at Westlake Towne Center, said symptoms such as nausea, headaches, dizziness and muscle cramping are the body's way of warning it's dehydrated.
"Dehydration occurs because there is too much water lost and not enough water intake. Usually it is a combination of both," said Jordan."Exercise and extreme heat conditions can also cause dehydration."
Jordan said dehydration can lead to major health crises such as organ failure, shock and coma.
"The average adult should consume at least nine to 13 glasses of water a day. Women who are nursing or pregnant need to consume 10 to 13 glasses a day, and children should consume five to eight glasses of water a day," he said.
Proper hydration can also protect against another health concern that can be caused by the warm weather Lakers crave. According to George Chaconas, a physician with Carilion Clinic Family Medicine in Burnt Chimney, overexertion in hot and humid weather can lead to heat stress.
"Heat stress is caused by the combination of excessive heat exposure and the body's inability to dissipate heat," said Chaconas. "Our body cools itself by transferring heat to the environment both through convection [wind] and evaporation [sweating].Convection is inefficient when the air temperature is over 95 degrees and sweating is ineffective when the relative humidity is above 75 percent."
Chaconas said some symptoms of heat overexposure are heat rash, leg swelling, muscle cramping and fainting.
"Heat stroke is the most severe problem and is characterized by all of those symptoms along with disorientation, seizures, kidney failure and death if not treated immediately," he said.
Chaconas said along with frequent hydration, wearing light-colored clothing and avoiding strenuous activity when the heat index is above 90 can protect against heat-related health problems.