How to Stay Safe in Summer

Keep your cool in the scorching heat.

by SHFamily | Tue, May 23, 2017

By Kelly Crockett

It’s that time of year again, folks; Shanghai summer – in all its scorching, sweaty glory – is upon us. And while a good number of expats choose to run for the hills (or the air con) between July and August, it doesn’t have to be a cruel summer if you prep properly. While the heat may come with a vengeance, we’ve got tips to keep you cool and safe in the Shanghai sun.

Sun smart

Unprotected sun exposure can lead to severe sunburn, skin aging, eye impairment and skin cancer. Children are particularly vulnerable, as most people get the bulk of their sun exposure before they turn 18.

Avoid direct sunlight. The strongest rays of the day are between 10am and 4pm, so seek shade during these hours. Infants have even thinner skin, and babies under six months should always be kept out of the sun.

And don’t let those smoggy days fool you.

“Damaging UV rays can still penetrate through clouds and smog. It’s important for people to still wear sunscreen even on cloudy or smoggy days.”

– Dr. Charlotte Wu, Resident Internist (MD, Yale School of Medicine, US), and Dr. Oliver Tang, Resident General Practitioner (MBBS, Imperial College London, UK), both of GHC Medical & Dental Center.

Protect your eyes. Most people are quick to remember sunscreen and just as quick to forget sunglasses, but corneas can burn after a single day of sun exposure! Make sure they have UV filters that provide 100% UV protection.

Use and reapply sunscreen. Your sunscreen (and lip balm) should protect against both UVA and UVB rays. They should also have a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30. If you have sensitive skin, avoid sunscreens that contain Para-Aminobenzoic Acid (PABA) and titanium dioxide. Apply sunscreen 15 to 30 minutes before exposure and reapply every two hours, after swimming or heavy sweating.

How to treat sunburn:

• Apply cool wash cloths

• Take a cool bath

• Use pure aloe vera

• Avoid petroleum-based products such as Vaseline, which trap heat

Hot! Hot! Hot!

July is Shanghai’s hottest month, averaging 31°C (88°F) – throw in 80 to 90 percent humidity and it’s no wonder Shanghai’s summer sizzles! Heat illness can come on quickly, especially for those who are active or play sports during the middle of the day.

Avoid drastic temperature changes. Public buildings are often kept frigid so to avoid shocking your system when going from indoor to outdoor, slowly acclimate yourself to the alternative temperature by sitting in the shade; or turn the temperature down on your AC about an hour before leaving home.

You can also protect yourself by dressing like a cool kid – wear lightweight, light colored, breathable threads (and wait to break out those yoga pants again in the fall).The optimal fabrics for hot and humid climates are all-natural materials such as linen, cotton (poplin, seersucker and madras) and 100% wool, which are better at absorbing moisture. Chinos and supima cotton are great replacements for your favorite pair of jeans.

Be sure to eat plenty of citrus fruits and seasonal veggies, UV radiation can suppress the immune system. 

“as a consequence, sun exposure may enhance risk of infection.”

– World Health Organization (WHO)

Aim to eat around five servings of fruits and veggies every day to give your immune system a boost. They’re also high in water content and will aid hydration, so that’s a double win.

This one’s important – know the signs for heat exhaustion, including dizziness, nausea, weakness and cramping. Heat stroke, a serious and potentially fatal condition, is characterized by hot and dry skin, confusion, fainting, high temperature, and convulsions.

How to treat heat stroke:

• Cool down the person as soon as possible.

• Move the person into shade or air conditioning.

• Offer a cold beverage. Ice packs under the armpits can also decrease body temperature quickly.

• If signs of heat stroke are present, seek immediate medical attention.

Be water wise

Water is crucial to preventing heat exhaustion, as it carries heat away from internal organs. Parents need to be particularly vigilant about dehydration in children, as kids need proportionally more water than adults. Even mild dehydration can lead to headaches, irritability and cognitive impairment.

The Institute of Medicine recommends adult men drink 3.7 liters (13 cups) of water daily, and adult women 2.7 liters (9 cups). For children:

“the amount of fluids recommended per day depends. Children between ages four and eight years should drink 40 ounces per day, or five cups. This amount increases to 56 to 64 ounces, or seven to eight cups, by ages nine to 13 years. For ages 14 to 18, the recommended water intake is 64 to 88 ounces, or eight to 11 cups.”

Urine color is a good indicator of hydration – if it looks like lemonade you’re doing okay, if it looks like apple juice (dark yellow to brown) you’re under-hydrated.

How to treat dehydration:

• If you feel the sensation of thirst, you’re already dehydrated.

• Drink small amounts often; aim to sip every 15 minutes.

• Be sure to offer drinks to children frequently.

“Be careful not to drink very large amounts in a short time ... Drinking too fast or too much in a short period of time can be harmful.”

– Dr. Wu and Dr. Tang warn

If you’re sweating a lot or being active outdoors, even drinking excessive amounts of water, it’s possible to suffer from hyponatremia, or low blood sodium. Add in a sports drink containing electrolytes and carbohydrates to help. But most of all, don’t forget to have fun in the sun!

Good to know:

Heat hacks for your home:

    Hang a damp sheet in an open window – it cools incoming breezes.

•    Closing curtains during the day can reduce heat by as much as 45%.

•    Don't run your washer's drying cycle during the day. 

•    Improve your air con's efficiency by changing the filters, keeping all of the ducts clean and caulking any gaps in your windows.

•    Keep a spray bottle in the refrigerator and spritz yourself when hot – add a drop of lavender or lemon essential oil and feel extra refreshed!

For more information, visit: 

•    ghcchina.com

•    who.int

•    iom.nationalacademies.org