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Summertime temperatures call for increased caution



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Laura D'Hondt applies SPF 50 sunscreen to her daughter, Chiara Vanoplinus, 20 months, at Deer Lake Beach. She gets some more sunscreen each time she comes out of the water. Photo by Phil Custodio (click for larger version)
June 30, 2010 - Skin cancer is a risk year round, but increases during summer, according to the Michigan Department of Community Health.

Reduce your chances of skin cancer by using sunscreen, wearing sunglasses and wearing appropriate clothing that covers the body.

Also, stay completely hydrated by drinking water frequently, even when not thirsty, to prevent heat stress. Hot days, with temperatures in the upper 80's and above, can cause body temperature to rise, resulting in muscle cramps, dizziness and eventually making you dangerously ill.

Try to stay clear of alcoholic and caffeinated drinks as they cause dehydration.

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The sun's rays can be very dangerous especially from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., so plan daily activities accordingly. If working outdoors, take frequent breaks in shaded, cool areas. Wear light colored, loose fitting clothing to help stay cool. Fabrics like cotton allow air to circulate through clothing and to your body.

It is important to know the different signs of heat-related illnesses.

Heat-related illness target young children and the elderly, so check them frequently.

The first stage of heat-related illness is dehydration, which occurs when body fluids are lost by sweating and not replaced. Dry mouth, thirst, headache, dizziness, cramps, excessive fatigue and irritability are all symptoms of dehydration. When experiencing dehydration, move to a shaded or air-conditioned area and drink water. Consult a physician if symptoms persist or if there is an existing condition that could be complicated by increased fluid intake.

Heat cramps are another indication of a potential heat-related emergency. Heat cramps are muscular pains and spasms caused by heavy exertion and high body temperatures. To treat heat cramps, seek shade; drink a half glass of cool water every 15 minutes; and gently stretch cramped muscles and hold for about 20 seconds. If symptoms persist or worsen, seek emergency medical treatment

The more serious stage of heat-related illness is heat exhaustion, which typically occurs when people exercise heavily or work in a warm, humid place that causes sweating. This fluid loss can cause reduced blood flow to vital organs resulting in shock. Signs of exhaustion include headache, moist and pale skin, nausea, dizziness, weakness and exhaustion.

To treat, seek shade, drink a half glass of cool water every 15 minutes; remove or loosen any tight clothing; and apply a cool, wet towel or compress. If symptoms persist or worsen, seek emergency medical treatment.

Finally, heat stroke is the most severe stage of heat-related illness.

A heat stroke, or also called sunstroke, is life threatening and immediate emergency medical attention is vital. During a heat stroke, the body's temperature control stops working and temperature can rise very quickly. Symptoms include vomiting; decreased alertness level or complete loss of consciousness; high body temperature, sometimes as high as 105 degrees Fahrenheit; red, hot and dry skin; rapid, weak pulse; and rapid, shallow breathing.

For more information and tips on sun safety and the effects of sun exposure, talk to your doctor or visit www.michigan.gov/mdch.

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