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Tess Langfus

Summertime Safeguards

Now's the time to get outdoors. These tips will help keep you out of harm's way.

Warm weather and bright sunshine have returned, and you're probably ready to get outdoors. And that's a good thing. Even 15 to 30 minutes outside twice a week can boost Vitamin D levels, improve sleep, and lift your spirits.

But as always, moderation is critical. Here's how to keep yourself safe this summer.

Beat the heat

If there's one downside to summer, it's sweat. Not many of us enjoy it. But sweating is how your body manages its internal temperature. When the air heats up, your body does too, especially in direct sunlight or warm environments.

That could put you at risk for heatstroke, which is what happens when your body temperature shoots to 104 degrees F or higher. It's a serious condition that can damage your internal organs and even be deadly. Watch for these signs:

  • Confusion or irritation
  • Feeling faint or passing out
  • Not sweating
  • Dry and red skin
  • Strong and fast, or slow and weak, pulse

Guard against skin cancer

You probably know direct sun exposure can cause cancer. But did you know harmful UV rays can also go through clouds and many types of clothing? That's why it's important to stay covered and wear sunscreen when you go outside.

"Melanoma is an aggressive type of skin cancer," says Matt Flory of the American Cancer Society. "That's why it's important to be aware of changes in your skin."

Flory says to check for new moles (or changes to old ones) and unusual or skin growths. If you see something, show it to your doctor right away.

Keep your cool

Take these steps when going outside:

  • Drink liquids, but avoid caffeine or alcohol — both can make you dehydrated.
  • Wear a wide-brimmed hat and light-colored, loose-fitting clothing. You can also find clothes with built-in sun protection.
  • Apply lots of sunscreen (SPF 30 or higher) on all bare skin.
  • Stay inside in the afternoon, when the sun is the hottest.

The bottom line: Enjoy your time outside, but use these tips — and limit your time in direct sunlight — to stay safe

Tess Langfus is an Eden Prairie, Minn.-based freelance writer.