With savage winters and springs and autumns that last too long, Canadians want to take advantage of summertime sun as often as possible. But, it's pretty easy to overdo it.
Most of us get so wrapped up in the rays and fun of being out on the water that we fail to recognize the warning signs of sickness setting in. Illness due to heat usually occurs in a progression:
- Heat rash
- Heat cramps
- Heat edema
- Heat tetany
- Heat syncope
- Heat exhaustion
- Heat stroke
It's important to note that going through the entire process doesn't always happen. Heat Stroke can occur without the sensation of the first minor illnesses. For example, it's common enough to experience Heat Exhaustion without first experiencing Heat Rash or Cramps.
But, you don't have to be an expert at the medical definitions and onsets, you just have to be familiar with the symptoms they cause.
Symptoms Of Heat Illness
- Throbbing headache
- Dizziness and light-headedness
- Lack of sweating despite the heat
- Red, hot, and dry skin
- Muscle weakness or cramps
- Nausea and vomiting
- Rapid heartbeat, which may be either strong or weak
- Rapid, shallow breathing
- Behavioural changes such as confusion, disorientation, or staggering
Allow this to continue for too long and you're exposing yourself to the possibility of complications of the nervous system, seizures, and damage to the brain and other organs.
If you feel a headache coming on, get a little dizzy, or stop sweating, it's time to make a move. Seek shelter and start taking sips of water. Your priority is to lower your body temperature and rehydrate.
There's no hard science on the volume or temperature of the water you drink. Some speculate that too much water throws off your electrolyte balance, but this would take a lot of water. There's also a confusion over cold water causing cramps or vomiting. This usually only applies to athletes or someone working hard in the heat. The cold water is a shock, and the body sends warm blood into the area to compensate, which causes the cramps. If your blood hasn't travelled to your extremities due to excess activity, there's little risk of this.
Of course, the best way to treat heat exhaustion or sun stroke is to avoid it entirely. Make sure to take sips of water throughout your day on the water to stay hydrated, and try to get some shade every 30 minutes or so. Many fishing boats, pontoons, and deck boats come with optional bimini tops for just that reason.
You should also make sure to take care of your skin while you're at it. If you're not quite an expert, you should check out our Summer Skin Care Guide.
Smaller children aren't always able to express themselves. Make sure they are shaded and hydrated too. If you're the type of parent to worry, you can always check their temperature once in awhile. A normal temperature is 37°C. Heat stroke's onset drives this up to 40°C. An increase of a half a degree is normal, it happens to most of us every day. Anything more than this is cause for concern. If your child's temperature is climbing, cool them off. If it continues, get off the water and into a controlled environment.
There's a lot of damage the sun can do if you get too much of it. But, it's not all negative. In fact, there are numerous health benefits from getting a daily dose of rays.
Benefits of Sunshine
Vitamin D encourages the absorption of calcium and phosphorus in the body, strengthening your bones. Vitamin D3 is also released during the sun-absorption process which increases your bone density.
Enhance Your Thinking Power
Neuroscience has found a decrease in cognitive functions as vitamin D levels are lowered. Keeping these levels up keep your brain firing the way that it should. There's also proof that Vitamin D stimulates the growth of nerve cells in the hippocampus - the memory part of the brain.
Lower Blood Pressure
Beyond the benefits of Vitamin D, sunlight hitting the skin releases nitric oxide into blood vessels. This reduces the risk of heart attacks and strokes, improves health, and extends life.
Be Happy, not S.A.D.
Sunlight is directly responsible for triggering serotonin in the brain, nature's antidepressant. This alleviates the symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder.
On top of all of this, a healthy dose of sunshine is also known to:
- Help Regulate your sleeping patterns for a better night's rest
- Clear/sooth skin conditions like acne, psoriasis, and eczema
- Suppress overactive immune systems
- Lower incidents of cataracts
- Improve metabolism
- Reduce risk of Type-2 Diabetes
So, there are plenty of benefits to being out in the sun. But, you do have to be aware of the dangers and how to protect yourself. Stay safe and have fun.
Yours In Boating,