Stay healthy this summer

Source intern Cait Thomson has some top health tips to get you through the summer months in one piece…

Summer is upon us and although the sun isn’t always shining in bonnie Scotland, it’s not going to stop us from making this summer an amazing one! Before you pull out your tiniest shorts and bikinis from the back of the cupboard, here’s some advice to make sure you stay in good health over the holidays…

What is SPF anyway?

We’re always being told to look after our skin when the sun comes out, but do you know what the right products are for your skin to avoid painful sun burn? Allow us to shed some light on protecting your skin.

SPF stands for ‘sun protection factor’ and the whole idea behind sun cream is that it helps the skin reflect or absorb most of the ultra violet rays the sun gives off. By choosing to slap on an SPF 30 sun cream before you head into the garden with an ice lolly, 97% of the sun’s rays are screened from your skin, so anything with a higher SPF only increases the protection. Doctors recommend the paler your skin is, the higher SPF you should use but even if you are a bronzed beauty this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t bother with sun cream. Sun damage can occur in darker skin tones as well, so an SPF 30 sun cream is better than nothing at all.

If you do forget to put sun cream on and find yourself feeling the burn, there are simple ways to cool sore skin. After sun products, available from chemists and pharmacies, include ingredients like aloe vera which helps to prevent peeling and reduce inflammation.

Using sun cream isn’t just important for avoiding sun burn – it’ll reduce the risk of developing skin cancer too. Look out for creams which provide UVA protection, and remember – sun cream alone will not offer 100% protection. Make sure you avoid being in the sun between 11am and 3pm – this is when the sun’s at its highest in the sky and its rays are strongest.

Sun in your eyes?

If you frequently find yourself squinting in the sunlight you could actually be doing your eyes more damage than you think. Exposing your eyes to the sun for long periods of time can increase your chance of contracting conditions like cataracts. Although this all sounds a little horrible and dull, think on this as the perfect excuse to treat yourself to a new pair of sunglasses!

Before you rush out to the high street to grab the perfect pair of sun specs, make sure they’re the real deal. Sunglasses with a ‘CE mark’ ensures they meet with British Standards and a UV 400 label is also a must have. Some sun glasses are just a tinted plastic and don’t offer any protection against the sun, so take your time when shopping for a pair that will care for your eyes.

The perfect summer escapade

Climbing up mountains, swimming in the sea and going on long bike rides – all perfect activities for roasting hot summer days. Unsurprisingly, such activities bring out the best in those classic summer ailments like hay fever, insect bites and dehydration. Before you jump into the sea or pull on your hiking boots, make sure you take simple precautions so you’re able to enjoy your summer days without these nightmares.

Spending a couple of quid on an insect repellent will eliminate the risks of being bothered by pesky midges and will keep your skin bite-free. In addition to this, if you suffer from hay fever in the warmer months, you can take an antihistamine before you head out in the morning to save you spending the day sneezing and feeling generally rubbish.

Before you head out on any summer day trips into the wilderness, make sure your phone is fully charged and you have essentials such as bottles of water and plasters. The last thing you want is to be lost without enough charge to phone for help.

Treating the stings of summer

Whether it is bees, nettles, wasps or midges, it’s bound to happen at some point when we’re making the most of the sun. Let’s put our granny’s old-fashioned remedies to the test and decide what really works to treat stings and bites. We’ve all heard that dock leaves relieve the pain of a nettle sting, but is this true or just what our mum told us to act as a placebo and make us feel better? Interestingly, dock leaves do contain an acid which does help to sooth nettle stings but if you’d prefer a more 21st century remedy, try using an aloe vera-based product and cold water. Avoid itching as this often makes nettle stings worse. When it comes to bee and wasp stings, remove any stinger quickly from the skin and either apply a baking soda and water mixture or an ice pack to the skin to help with the pain and swelling.

Thirsty work

All this lounging in the sun is tiring work, and when it gets warmer, it’s vital that we keep our bodies hydrated. As well as the obvious benefits in terms of avoiding dehydration – drinking plenty of water helps keep your skin clear and spot free. Because the warm weather makes us sweat more, drinking around seven or eight glasses of water a day helps to replace the fluids we’re losing. It’s recommended that you don’t drink fizzy drinks if you do begin to feel dehydrated as they don’t always quench your thirst. Water, although the best for you, might not be the most exciting thing to drink during those scorching days but you can mix it up by adding a squeeze of lemon, lime or even a splash of lime cordial.

Summer snacking

As we tuck into our third ice lolly of the day, it’s difficult not to feel a wee bit guilty and this sugar can’t be good for our teeth, so are there healthier alternatives to our favourite summer snacks? Why not create your own fruit salad full of chunks of your favourite fruits and topped off with a splash of fresh orange juice? Frozen grapes are also a great alternative to sugary ice creams. Throw a few bunches of grapes in the freezer and leave them overnight. The next day you’re in for a treat as your tuck into your home-made frozen snack. You can also create your own alternatives to crisps and salsa dips. Swapping salty crisps with carrot sticks or slices of cucumber and using low fat cheese as a dip is a delicious healthy alternative.

As well as being bad for your teeth, fizzy and sugary drinks aren’t always the most refreshing. Instead of reaching for a can of something carbonated, try throwing some fruits in the blender to create a refreshing summer smoothie. Try blending a handful of strawberries, a banana and a cup of milk and you’ll be left with a healthy fruit drink.

A guide to alfresco cuisine

Dragging the barbeque out of the garage and scrubbing off the cobwebs is a quintessential part of Scottish summertime. However, the two main issues faced when having a barbeque are eating uncooked meat and the spreading of bacteria between raw meat and meat that is cooked and ready to be eaten. To avoid either of these situations, ensure you have clean utensils and when it comes to checking if those sausages are ready to be eaten make sure they’re piping hot in the centre, any juices run clear and they aren’t at all pink in the middle.

Midges are perhaps one of the most irritating aspects of alfresco cooking, so when you’re moving food from the kitchen to the garden, keep it covered with cling film or kitchen roll just to ensure those pesky bugs don’t try and eat the food before you do.

There’s plenty to think about when it comes to looking after your body in the summer months, but if you follow our advice, you’ll be onto a summer to remember. Whether you’re staycationing here in Scotland or hitting the beach in the Costas with your mates, make sure that you have lots of good, clean, safe fun!


NHS Choices

Source summer 2013

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