Florida summer: You versus the elements

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  • | 7:22 a.m. July 20, 2011
  • Winter Park - Maitland Observer
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It’s you versus the elements in Central Florida. It’s hot, the sun is strong and the mosquitoes are hungry. Intense lightning strikes happen suddenly. But you are tough and know what to do. Armed with water, sunscreen, hat, sunglasses and an eye for danger, you are a Florida summer survivor.

Sure, the Florida sun looks pretty on a postcard, but living under it every day can be hazardous to your health. You sweat and your body craves fluids. Reach for plenty of water before you get thirsty. Drink before, during and after being outside. Drink enough fluids that your urine is almost clear, not bright yellow. Sports and rehydration drinks, such as Gatorade, are OK in moderation but are full of sugar and salt. Iced tea may sound innocuous, but check out the calories and sugar in prepared teas. And the caffeine in tea, coffee and colas can make you more dehydrated.

Those sun rays beat down in the Sunshine State. Sun exposure damages the skin and raises your risk of skin cancers — and wrinkles. Wear sunscreen every time you are in the sun. Use face creams with about 15 SPF. When you are out in the sun for a prolonged time, you can protect your face with a stick of sunscreen. The stick sunscreen is thicker and less likely to get in your eyes as you sweat. Remember that sunscreens do not block out all of the sun’s harmful rays. Shade your face and neck with a broad brim hat. Wear sunglasses to protect your eyes from sun damage, which can cause macular degeneration.

Out in the heat, you need to watch for signs of heat exhaustion and stroke. Signs of heat exhaustion include profuse sweating, headache, dizziness, fainting, irritability, confusion, thirst, nausea or vomiting. Heat stroke signs include not sweating despite the heat, confusion, collapse and seizures. If someone is showing signs of heat exhaustion or stroke, cool the person as much as possible and call 911.

Even when the clouds come out and block out the sun, giving us some much-needed shade, Florida weather hazards are still in effect and dangerous. Florida leads the nation in lightening deaths and injuries. A sunny afternoon can quickly become a fierce lightning storm. When the storm comes, seek shelter quickly. In a lightning storm, get indoors and away from tall trees. If you are in water and hear thunder, head for land immediately and be wary of metal objects that might conduct electricity. If you are indoors during a storm, stay away from windows and don’t take a bath or a shower.

Mockingbirds may be the state bird, but the most prolific aviator in our state must be the mosquito. These little buggers love wet, humid environments — something they don’t advertise on a postcard — and are notorious for spreading diseases both to humans and pets. Insect repellants work sometimes, citronella candles can help and bug zappers are useful. It also helps to remove prime mosquito homes such as clogged drains or rain-filled buckets.

Lugo is a Maitland resident, nurse practitioner and President of Health Action, offering workplace health consulting and nurse coaching. Visit www.healthaction.biz


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