Happy Days! Summer is (finally, for those of us in the Pacific Northwest) here and the time is right to relax and enjoy yourself. But while the sun is a welcome sight, it can be a bit of a danger for those of us just getting used to the summer heat. Everyone knows about heat and sun strokes, it still affects tens of thousands of Americans every year...mostly because people didn't realize they were overexposed to the heat and sun. Going with the idea that an ounce of prevention is better than a pound of the cure (and let's face it, a sunburn is not a pleasant experience), here are 9 tips to help keep you cool this summer:

  1. Wear a hat in the sun. Wide-brimmed is best - and this year sort of stylish - or one with an absorbent band if you're likely to sweat.
  2. Cover other parts of your body, like your arms, shoulders and back of your neck, if you're out in the sun for more than a few minutes.
  3. If you're fair skinned, I'll state the obvious, you should always wear a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 20.
  4. Try to expose yourself to the sun gradually over the course of a few days. That could help you avoid a sudden and painful sunburn.
  5. Be aware that the effects of the sun are still there even when it's cloudy. I know a few people who have been at the coast for an overcast weekend and come home with a bit of a burn.
  6. Curious about the UV Index (it measures the harmful ultraviolet rays)? Visit http://epa.gov./sunwise/uvindex.html
  7. Check the UV protection levels of your sunglasses, reading glasses and even your contacts. If your contacts have UV protection, it's still smart to wear sunglasses - they will protect your eyes and keep you from squinting.
  8. Drink plenty of fluids, and drink them frequently. Cool water is often your best bet. If you're out at a barbeque or picnic, be aware that alcohol dehydrates you, so you need to continue to drink other, non-alcoholic, liquids.
  9. If you're involved in any kind of activity outdoors - from walking to working in your garden - take regular shade breaks. Stay in the shade as long as you feel you need to to get your body temperature back to normal. 

Remember that kids often need sunscreen and shade more often than adults. Be sure to re-apply sunscreen regularly. They may protest a bit, but believe me, it's easier to fight them on that than deal with a grumpy, sunburned kid. You can also visit the Government's SunWise Kids website at http://epa.gov/sunwise/kids. Have a wonderful, sunny and warm week! Get out there and enjoy!