Summertime brings with it many joyous things: trips to the beach, afternoons at the pool and time to just relax. But it can also mean too much time for kids to get into trouble and hazy, hot and humid weather. UAB has news you can use to make it through the next several months, from tips on surviving being pregnant during the hot season to ways you can keep your kids active and healthy now and always. We’ll show you how to keep your young ones safe both online and also while outdoors. Plus, summer budgeting and travel tips. It will all be right here, all summer long.
Summer often brings with it fun in the sun, but for cancer patients it also presents new challenges and the need for additional protection.
“Cancer patients may be more at risk for sun damage because of their treatment,” says Elizabeth Kvale, M.D., director of outpatient supportive care and survivorship in the Department of Medicine at University of Alabama at Birmingham and associate scientist in the UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center.
Cancer patients should adhere to the basic sun-protection guidelines: Wear sunscreen and protective clothing in the hot, summer months. The American Society of Clinical Oncologists (ASCO) recommends skin cancer patients also should take special care to protect areas of skin being treated; dark, tightly woven fabrics are most effective.
Blueberries are among the nutrient-rich foods being studied by UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center investigators exploring the link between disease and nutrition. Dieticians there say as little as a cup a day can help prevent cell damage linked to cancer.
Why are blueberries considered healthful? They're full of antioxidants, flavonoids and other vitamins that help prevent cell damage. "Antioxidants protect cells by stabilizing free radicals and can prevent some of the damage they cause," says Laura Newton M.A.Ed., R.D., an associate professor in the Department of Nutrition Sciences at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.
Free radicals, atoms that contain an odd number of electrons and are highly reactive, can cause cellular damage, one of the factors in the development of cancer; many believe a diet filled with fruits and vegetables may help reduce the risk. "Studies suggest that antioxidants may help prevent the free-radical damage associated with cancer," says Newton, a licensed dietician who often works with cancer patients.
Blueberries also are rich in vitamin C, which helps the immune system and can help the body to absorb iron. “Vitamin C also helps to keep blood vessels firm, offering protection from bruising,” Newton says.
As a major heat wave sweeps over the country, the University of Alabama at Birmingham Hospital has already treated one patient for heat stroke and is gearing up for more.
“People in states across the Midwest and Northeast are especially at risk, because many people might not have air conditioning, but even in the South, where we’re accustomed to heat and humidity, heat stroke and heat-related illness is a very real threat,” says UAB Chair of Emergency Medicine Janyce Sanford, M.D.
Sanford says heat-related illnesses cover a spectrum of mild to severe illnesses. “Someone who has been working out in the heat may start to experience the beginning stages with heat cramps. As it progresses, the next step is heat exhaustion. They may develop a severe headache, nausea, vomiting, and a feeling of severe weakness,” she explains.
The most serious and potentially fatal heat-related illness is heat stroke.
“When you reach this point, the severely elevated body temperature causes an altered mental state, dizziness and ultimately can lead to a loss of consciousness. The muscles can start to break down, which leads to kidney failure; this makes heat stroke a life-threatening illness,” she says.
But, Sanford notes, heat stroke is rare, most often seen in very young and elderly people, or those suffering from chronic illnesses.
To avoid reaching this level of severity, Sanford offers some tips to stay safe:
Avoid being outside during the hottest part of the day, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., to reduce the chance of heat stroke. Wear light-colored and lightweight clothing, wear a hat, and remember that 100 percent cotton clothing tends to hold sweat, making it harder for your body to cool down.
Thirst is not always a good indicator of hydration status. In children, the thirst mechanism is not fully developed, and in seniors, the sense of thirst has diminished. By the time your brain signals thirst, you may have lost 1 percent of your body weight – about three cups of sweat for a 150 lb. person. A 2 percent loss may reduce your work capacity by 10 to 15 percent.
Read more tips in the full article
With school out for the summer, there’s no scheduled recess or lunch time, so it’s up to parents to ensure their kids are physically active and eating right, say University of Alabama at Birmingham experts.
Obesity has more than tripled in children in the past 30 years because of poor diet and physical inactivity, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In Alabama, 36 percent of youth ages 10-17 are considered overweight or obese, according to a 2009 report by Trust for America's Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The CDC says a healthy lifestyle for kids will lower their risk of becoming obese and developing related diseases.
Stephenie Wallace, M.D., UAB assistant professor of pediatrics, suggests parents start with a minimum commitment of one hour of physical activity per day.
“Set an expectation of doing something at the house — chores, set some goals and rewards for your young person,” Wallace says. “Get them to play basketball with their friends or spend some time in the neighborhood, and really encourage them to do so.”
Also, kids at play need to stay hydrated, Wallace says, with water — not sugary drinks that have more calories.
Hot, humid and pregnant. Many women would call that a recipe for misery.
But UAB obstetrician Kim Hoover, M.D., says there are real medical conditions that pregnant women should guard against to stay safe and healthy as the temperature rises.
“Dehydration and overheating can happen anytime during the summer, but especially when you are pregnant,” she says. Dizziness, nausea and fatigue can signal those, Hoover says.
Blood flow increases during pregnancy and can make women feel hotter, as can the hormone changes that occur during pregnancy, even though a woman’s core body temperature and metabolism don’t change. Slight increases in blood pressure from edema and swelling can occur and that can make women warmer as well, Hoover says.
Pregnant women are more likely in the summer heat to become dehydrated because more of the fluid in their body goes to the fetus and the amniotic fluid, which is why you are supposed to drink more water when you are pregnant no matter what time of year it is. Add sweating from the heat and the risk of dehydration rises.
You hear “I’m hoooooooooooooome!” The refrigerator opens, and the TV channel changes to MTV’s "16 and Pregnant.”
College students have returned, and summer officially has begun.
What’s a mother to do?
“After a positive welcome, let your student know that although he has been on his own for a while, there are behaviors you need from him now that he is back in your home,” says child-adolescent psychologist Vivian Friedman, Ph.D., professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neurobiology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.
From day one, know the issues and be clear about your expectations and the consequences. Some topics to discuss include:
Are you willing to pick up after them and do their laundry?
Do they need a job?
Will they share their car with siblings?
Is dinner with the family mandatory?
Do they have a curfew?
School’s almost out for summer, and for some kids that means more time in a virtual world – surfing the Web, hanging out in online chat rooms and posting to Facebook and Twitter.
According to a recent report in the journal Pediatrics, 22 percent of teenagers log on to a social media site more than 10 times a day, and three-quarters have cell phones.
But while kids see summer as a time to explore cyberspace, there is plenty for parents to worry about, from “sexting” to cyber bullying.
“The Internet is a vast place with great things on it for children like games and educational lessons,” said David Schwebel, Ph.D., psychology professor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. “There also are risks and danger such as sex crimes, violence, hatred and prejudice; a lot of things children need to be protected from.”
It’s difficult to completely police a child’s Internet activity, Schwebel said. “Parental controls can help, but are not foolproof. Parents need to teach children to act safely and get help when needed.”
The best way to enjoy fireworks this Fourth of July is to leave them to the professionals, says Doug Witherspoon, M.D., director of the Ocular Trauma Center at University of Alabama at Birmingham Callahan Eye Hospital.
It’s best to avoid using fireworks at home,” Witherspoon says. “They are dangerous and unpredictable. You are far better off attending a professional fireworks show than attempting to use them at home.”
According to the Birmingham-based United States Eye Injury Registry, there are an estimated 12,000 fireworks-related injuries treated in U. S. hospital emergency departments annually. As many as 400 Americans suffer permanent vision loss in one or both eyes as a result of injuries caused by fireworks each year. Bottle rockets are the worst offenders, according to Witherspoon.
If you must use fireworks yourself, Witherspoon says follow these safety procedures to avoid injury, burns or blindness.
Always have an adult present.
Never use bottle rockets
Never allow young children to play with fireworks, even sparklers. Sparklers can reach 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit, hot enough to melt gold.
Never try to re-light fireworks that did not explode or ignite the first time.