by Robin Allen
I had the honor of watching the Navy Blue Angels perform in July from a boat on the Pensacola Sound in Pensacola Beach, Fl. I will also have the pleasure of watching the Air Force Thunderbirds on Lake Michigan in Chicago, IL. I grew up in Pensacola and have a cousin who was in the Blue Angels, so I have watched them all my life, usually from the beach. This time was especially poignant in the light of the recent tragedy of losing a Blue Angels pilot. The crowds were enormous, and as I looked around, I saw thousands of people, many on the beach, some on boats, some swimming, some stuck in their cars fighting traffic. We were the lucky ones who came by water. In our group was a nurse, pilot, and a few dietitians. So naturally, as we watched the show, we discussed flying, health and nutrition. I decided to write this blog on how to be safe and healthy for a long day out in the sun at 90+ degrees temperature and high humidity.
- Allow plenty of time to get to the show. I saw too many people still stuck in traffic in the heat while the show was going on.
- Water, water, water. Stay hydrated; you cannot have too much water on these hot days. The Institute of Medicine, National Academy of Sciences recommends consuming is 3.7 liters water or approx. 7 quarts, for adult men and 2.7 liters, approx. 5.7 quarts for adult women per day. People who are elderly, obese or who have other chronic health issues are more at risk for heat stroke.
- Be careful of your alcohol intake. Alcohol lowers the body’s tolerance for heat and acts as a diuretic, speeding up dehydration. It also affects the body’s ability to regulate its temperature. Alcohol can also raise the body’s blood pressure, increasing the risk of a heat-related illness like hyperthermia overheating and heat stroke especially for people with high blood pressure.
- Sunscreen, apply before you leave the house and reapply frequently. You need a sunscreen with broad-spectrum or multi-spectrum protection for both UVB and UVA. Most people will do fine with SPF 15 which filters out 93%UVB, SPF 30 Screens out 97%UVB.If you’re going to be exercising or in the water, it’s worth getting a sunscreen that is resistant to water and sweat. But this means that it is effective for only 40 minutes of swimming. You will need to reapply after 40 minutes. The sensitive skin of babies and children is easily irritated by chemicals in adult sunscreens, so avoid sunscreens with para-aminobenzoic acid (PABA) and benzophenones like dioxybenzone, oxybenzone, or sulisobenzone. Children’s sunscreens use ingredients that are less likely to irritate the skin, like titanium dioxide and zinc oxide.
- Get a babysitter! Especially if your baby is six months or younger. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends infants six months or younger should stay out of the sun. Infants cannot handle the heat or exposure, and many infants end up in the Emergency Room. Keep babies out of the hot sun with a canopy and do not overdress. It only takes 15 minutes for skin to be damaged by the sun.
- Have the correct pair of sunglasses. You can burn your retina spending hours in the sun resulting in solar retinopathy. Solar retinopathy can cause permanent damage to the retina and your eyesight. Look for sunglasses that block 99 percent or 100 percent of all UV light. Also look for impact resistant, polarized (sunlight bounces off the lens), medium to dark lenses depending on the amount of sun exposure, and a wraparound frame offers more protection from all angles.
- Food safety! Keep your food safe by packing it in an insulated container with a lot of ice or ice packs. Do not let foods stay out longer than 2 hours and if temperatures are above 90 degrees, not more than 1 hour.
- Have plenty of life jackets. The US Coast Guard requires one life jacket per person. Some states require children to be wearing a life jacket, not just have it available. You should also consider one for your pet. Our dog proudly wears her “Outward Hound” life jacket.
Now that you have some safety tips also remember to have fun! We packed gulf coast steamed shrimp, turkey wraps, lots of fruit and veggies, cheese and crackers, deviled eggs, nuts and of course water.
What are your favorite foods to take to the beach?
This post was written by Robin Allen, a member of the Military Families Learning Network (MFLN) Nutrition and Wellness team that aims to support the development of professionals working with military families. Find out more about the MFLN Nutrition and Wellness concentration on our website, on Facebook, on Twitter, and LinkedIn.