“All in all, it was a never-to-be-forgotten summer – one of those summers which come seldom into any life, but leave a rich heritage of beautiful memories in their going – one of those summers which, in a fortunate combination of delightful weather, delightful friends and delightful doing, come as near to perfection as anything can come in this world.” ~ L.M. Montgomery, Anne’s House of Dreams
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The above quote is irresistible to me, for you cannot think of L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables, without thinking of Prince Edward Island (PEI). A treasure on the east coast of Canada, PEI delights in summer tourists boasting such beautiful, rugged beaches. Our family thinks fondly of PEI as we used to live there and developed life-long friendships along the way. As well, having grown up in New Brunswick, my summer vacations were usually spent taking a ferry to the red-sand Island, before the impressive Confederation Bridge opened in 1997.
So, summer and PEI are in many ways synonymous for me and for many others. Living in a climate where the months of cold weather exceeds that of warm weather, I thought I would review some of my top considerations to maximize our warm weather wellness.
1) Even a suntan is a sign of sun damage to our skin – Who doesn’t love the look of sun-kissed skin? In fact, “Despite current initiatives to educate the public on skin cancer prevention, substantial numbers of people continue to believe that their appearance is improved with a tan” (Martin et al). Even in the face of significant increases in the deadly form of skin cancer, melanoma, harmful tanning beds are even still being used. Fortunately, FDA warnings have prompted age restrictions on tanning beds as both the UVA and UVB exposure to teenagers has significant implications on their skin cancer risk later in life. Even for me, my teenage-tanning years have created skin-related challenges for me later in life, and that was before we were so aware of the dangers.
Some people may argue that UV light exposure is best for providing adequate levels of vitamin D, but “In 2008, the American Academy of Dermatology issued a statement in support of nutritional sources rather than UV light radiation for adequate levels of vitamin D. (Martin et al, 2008).
Having said this, we all want to get outdoors when the weather is nice, especially after a long winter, so protective measures including the following are key:
- Applying a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30, thirty minutes prior to heading out – don’t forgot your ears and lips (lip balms often have SPF protection)
- Hats and clothing add another layer of protection (often have UV protection labels)
- Don’t forget sunglasses to protect your precious eyes
- When the sun is most powerful, between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m., shade is your friend
2) Water safety is paramount – whether it is a swimming pool or open water, even the most experienced swimmers can run into difficulties. In fact, rip tide currents in the ocean have become such a concern in PEI that they have beach safety tips and warnings in their tourism guide. A drowning in this area every season is not uncommon. Rip currents pull people away from the shore, and of course, their tendency is to swim against it to get to shore safely. Instead, they should swim parallel to the current until they are out of it and then swim to shore.
Life jackets, not swimming alone and supervision of children are otherwise essential. My daughter had an incident on a boat last year and I shudder to think of what could have happened if she didn’t have a proper fitting life jacket on.
3) Insects are a nuisance & spread disease – mosquitos can ruin a good time outside leading to night-time scratching, and even worse, spread diseases such as West Nile Virus, Malaria (not in North American regions) and now Zika Virus. The rapid spread of Zika Virus is a serious public health concern. Pregnant woman are at highest risk, whereas most people either do not know they have the virus or they have a mild illness related to it. However, following the first confirmed case of sexually transmitted Zika Virus, it certainly adds another level of concern.
Lyme disease is spread via ticks and can be quite serious. Unfortunately, it can also be difficult to identify and treat. Insect repellants and protective clothing remain the best ways to avoid being bitten by mosquitos and ticks. Despite the controversy that sometimes pops up about DEET, repellants containing certain concentrations of DEET are the most effective form of protection for both children and adults. Health Canada clearly outlines age approved concentrations.
4) Heat-related illnesses can be dangerous – when our body becomes unable to cool itself down, we may start to sweat and feel unwell, in the hopes we can remove ourself from the environment and get hydrated. However, certain situations exist where people are at higher risk of serious life-threatening consequences such as heatstroke. Athletes, certain professions (outdoor workers) and the vulnerable (very young or old) are more susceptible to the effects of heat-related illness. As we have all heard in the news, a child left in a hot vehicle even for a short time can be devastating. Prevention and awareness go a long way and water is still our best hydrating source.
Do you have any tips for staying well this summer?
Martin, J.M. (2009). Changes in Skin Tanning Attitudes. Fashion Articles and Advertisements in the Early 20th Century. American Journal of Public Health. 99(12): 2140-2146.
Canadian Cancer Society – Sun & Ultraviolet Radiation (UVR) Exposure
Government of Canada – Insect Repellants
Health Link BC – Heat-related Illness
Daily Mail Online Article – ‘Tanned skin is damaged skin’ – Surgeon general warns sun-loving Americans after 200% spike in deadly melanoma