BistroMD Health Library

Get excited about reading again with fun and interesting tips from our experts, including The M.D., our dietitians, and our fitness expert. In our health library, you will find all of the information you need to achieve your goals of making a healthy lifestyle change. So, start reading and start losing!

Health Tips

From tips on how to lose weight effectively to ways to combat boredom eating, this collection of informative articles covers a wide range of health topics that matter to real people, like you.

11 Mistakes to Avoid in the Summer Heat

When the snow flurries vanish and the sun shines bright... Summer is the most anticipated time of the year for those living in the Northern part of the country. The excitement of a new summer season can bring joy to many, but there are common mistakes made when soaking in the sun that can affect health in a number of ways. From identifying what time to avoid the sun to the concerns of running in hot weather, bistroMD is shedding light on some of the biggest mistakes when it comes to soaking in the summer season and just how you can minimize such risks!


Mistakes to Avoid in the Summer Heat

1. Oversunning
Though it may be tempting to enjoy summer days outside, it is important to not overstay your welcome in the hot summer sun. The sun's rays are usually strongest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., though that should not entitle you to stay out in the sun for six hours at a time. At the most, three to four hours is plenty of time to catch an adequate amount of rays, and two hours or less is more than enough time for young children. If family wants to spend all day grilling on the beach or wants to throw a party by the pool, make sure you take frequent breaks in the shade for at least 15 to 20 minutes of every hour, remembering to keep hydrated and consume healthful meals. And while running in hot weather may not be the most desirable time to hit the trails, these 10 quick tips can keep your running shoes on throughout all times of the year while remaining safe in the summer heat.

2. Neglecting the Importance of Sunscreen
According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, skin cancer is "the uncontrolled growth of abnormal skin cells. It occurs when unrepaired DNA damage to skin cells (most often caused by ultraviolet radiation from sunshine or tanning beds) triggers mutations, or genetic defects, that lead the skin cells to multiply rapidly and form malignant tumors." Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the U.S., with melanoma expressed to be less common compared to others but considered the most dangerous form, killing an estimated 10,130 of Americans each year. Often resembling or developing from moles, it is mainly caused by intense, occasional UV exposure (mostly leading to sunburn), especially in individuals who are genetically predisposed.

To protect skin and lower the risk of cancer cancer, rigorously apply sunscreen. Adults should wear a sunscreen with no less than 15 SPF, and children, no less than 30 SPF. Effective sunscreens should also be broad spectrum, meaning they have the ability to protect against both ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB); UVA is what makes the skin age and UVB is what burns the skin. It is also best to buy waterproof sunscreen, especially if you are going to take a dip in the water, though they should be reapplied about every 80 minutes or so. One ounce, or the size of a shot glass, is considered the safe amount of sunscreen needed to cover exposed areas of the body. Cover body 30 minutes prior to sun exposure and every two to four hours of outdoor activity.

3. Mismanaging A Sunburn
But if you do end up with a sunburn... Ditch the ice cubes commonly used to manage it. Burns react to extreme cold by producing more heat, which may just agitate the affected area. Rather than rubbing the burn with ice, the American Academy of Dermatology suggests putting a cold, damp towel on the skin for 10 to 15 minutes a few times each day. Applying a moisturizer with aloe vera or soy, drinking extra water, leaving blisters alone, and taking ibuprofen are additional tips to relieve discomfort with the burn heals.

4. Disregarding Sunglasses
Sunglasses bare a much more important job than complementing style during sunny days... Sunglasses protect eyes from the ultraviolet (UV) rays, ultimately to lessen the risk of cataracts, a clouding of the eye's lens that may lead to blurred vision; macular degeneration, a result from damage to the retina that destroys central vision; and pterygium, a tissue growth over the eye's surface. According to the National Eye Institute (NEI), look for sunglasses that block out 99 to 100 percent of both UVA and UVB radiation.

5. Unsafe Swimming
Taking a dip or swim in the pool lessens the intensity the summer heat. But according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 10 people die daily from unintentional drowning; of these ten, two are children aged 14 or younger. Experts encourage taking swimming lessons, learning CPR, wearing life jackets, using the buddy system, avoiding alcohol, and knowing the local weather conditions to ensure the safety of you and your family. Find more information on unintentional drowning and how stay safe in the water here.

6. Bacterial BBQs
You may have more guests at your summer BBQ than expected on your guest list... Bacteria! According to the CDC, one in six Americans are sickened, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die to foodborne illnesses each year. And unfortunately, summer is a primetime for food poisoning as the grill heats up and warm weather flourishes germs. Lessen the risk of foodborne illnesses by keeping hands washed, cleaning prep surfaces and appliances, and cooking and holding meats to their proper internal temperature.

7. Too Much Alcohol
Most people want to reach for a cold one when they soak in the sun, but doing so can have a negative impact on your diet and health if not careful. Along with losing track of intake during an endless summer night, drinking alcohol on an empty stomach is never a good idea, especially if you are going to be in the sun for more than a couple of hours. Interestingly, too, the sun may not be the only instigator of skin cancer, as developing research suggests white wine shows some link to its development. Although drinks can still be enjoyed this summer season, men should moderate alcohol intake to no more than two drinks per day while women are limited to one.

8. Too Much High-Fat, High-Sugar Foods
Though it is also important to not skip out on meals, it is also vital to consume enough of the "right" foods. One of the biggest problems with heading to the beach or lounging by the pool is the infamous desire to pack those favorite summer staples. Whether it be chips and dip, soda, hamburgers, and hot dogs, most of these foods are high in sugar, fat, and calories that can easily facilitate weight gain. Swap out those less-than-nutritious foods with these healthy picnic ideas!

9. Consuming Foods Linked to Sunburns
Though the importance of protecting the skin against sun damage is recognized, we may be disregarding one other determinant... In fact, the foods we choose to eat may not only affect the health of our body internally, but can increase the susceptibility to sunburns. The anti-inflammatory properties of berries, tomatoes, salad greens, green tea, unsweetened cocoa, fatty fish, nuts and seeds act as a natural defense against the sun and can protect against burns.

10. Dismissing Water Intake
Just because you may be swimming in water all summer does not dismiss the importance of drinking it. Exposing yourself in the hot summer sun for more than a couple of hours can cause the body to sweat and lose essential fluids. If too much water is lost, and not allowing the body to cool itself off, may lead to more serious health problems such as heat exhaustion and stroke. For every hour out in the sun, drink at least one 16-ounce bottle of water, with general recommendations encouraging men and women to drink a minimum of 64-ounces per day all year round. Keep hydrated this summer season with these four easy hacks to drink more water and 13 ways to make it taste better!

11. Not Protecting Against Ticks
Lyme disease is a bacterial illness spread by ticks, specifically from a black-legged, deer tick. The initial bite surfaces a bulls-eye patterned rash then presents with flu-like symptoms, including fatigue, fever, body aches, and chills. Staying proactive is one of the best ways to reduce Lyme disease risk. If partaking in outdoor activities, wear protective clothing; tall socks and long pants and shirts are great examples to keep skin covered and less accessible to ticks. Spraying on insect repellant is another way to reduce ticks, along with regular and thorough tick checks; and if a tick is found, remove it as soon as possible. Proper tick removal is described here.

Written By Sarah Asay, RDN. Published on November 07, 2012. Updated on April 18, 2019.


Follow @bistroMD

Start Your Diet Today!

Reality Check - Your Free Diet Analysis

Simply answer a few questions so we can figure out your weight loss goals and provide solutions for a lighter, healthier you. Our weight loss meal plans are designed to help real people achieve real and lasting success.

as seen on...   

join our free newsletter

Get free support to help you lose weight and be healthy with our Weekly Dish on Health.

stay connected