News Release

June 13, 2008

Contact: Chris DeFrancesco, 860-679-3914

Staying Healthy in the Heat of Summer

Problems Often Avoidable, UConn Health Center Physicians Say

FARMINGTON, CONN. – From sun burn to heat stroke, the summer presents a number of potential health problems. Many of which can be avoided if not prevented, according to physicians at the University of Connecticut Health Center.

“Overexposure to the sun can cause discomfort in the short term, and ultimately could lead to skin cancer later in life,” says Department of Dermatology Chair Jane Grant-Kels, M.D. “Picking up a bottle of sunscreen is a good start, but you have to know what SPF rating is right for you, how much to use—you want at least enough to fill a shot glass—and when to re-apply. Also be sure to use a sunscreen that will block UVA as well as UVB rays. Try to stay out of the midday sun and do not forget your hat and protective clothing.”

“When the heat index approaches triple digits, overdoing it with physical activity can lead to heat exhaustion or heat stroke,” says Thomas Trojian, M.D., a sports medicine specialist in the New England Musculoskeletal Institute. “Profuse sweating, fatigue, headache, and dizziness are your body’s ways of telling you to slow down in the heat. Drink plenty of water and take frequent breaks, or better yet, in extreme heat, postpone or reschedule strenuous outdoor activity altogether until it is cool, for instance in the early morning.”

High heat and humidity can hinder air quality, which also can present health problems for older people, those with heart problems, lung problems, high blood pressure or diabetes, and people on certain types of medications.

“It’s important to check on family members, friends and neighbors who could be vulnerable to heat-related illness,” says Mark Metersky, M.D., with the Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine. “Disorientation or confusion is reason enough to bring someone to the emergency room.”

It’s also wise to keep the “leaves of three, leave them be” rule in mind, as this also is the time of year when poison ivy can thrive.

“If you think you have touched poison ivy, wash immediately,” Grant-Kels says. “The allergen can be on tools, clothes and animal fur, so watch out. The only treatments are topical lotions, corticosteroid creams, and, in really bad cases, oral steroids.”

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