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Patio season is here- 5 tips for enjoying it safely

Written by Sybil Millar

With temperatures now firmly in the mid-twenties, summer has finally arrived. It’s hard to resist sitting in the sun for long stretches, particularly if you go to a restaurant and the patio is open. But before you spend a few hours out on a patio to watch your favourite sports team play or catch up with friends, here are five tips to enjoy the patio weather safely:

1) Protect your skin

Heading to a patio for a long lunch or mid-afternoon drinks? It’s actually the most important time of day to pay attention to your sun exposure. The sun causes the most harm to the skin when it’s overhead, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. between April and September in Canada. At those times, the sun’s rays travel through less atmosphere, making them especially intense.

To be safe, seek shade, avoid direct sunlight during peak UV periods and wear a broad-spectrum sunscreen. An SPF 30 will protect you from about 97% of harmful UV rays. Just make sure you apply enough. You’ll need about a shot glass full to cover your body adequately.

2) Keep your eyes safe

The sun poses a significant risk to the eyes even when it’s low in the sky. In fact, the lower angle gives the sun’s rays a direct pathway into the eyeball. Think of how hard it is to drive on the highway when you’re heading into the rising or setting sun. Furthermore, UV rays can penetrate clouds and reflect off many different surfaces such as snow, sand and water.

Research has shown that to protect your eyes, you should be wearing sunglasses, day-long, year-round and even when it’s cloudy. The best protection is provided by close fitting, wrap-around sunglasses that also block sunlight from the sides. When you’re picking sunglasses, you will want to find a pair that shields against both UV rays and blue light. Wearing a wide-brimmed hat also helps to keep the sun out of the eyes.

3) Stay hydrated

Dehydration can cause a variety of problems from simple thirst to low blood pressure and increased heart rate. At extremes, dehydration can affect your kidneys, which can be dangerous. Water or other calorie free drinks are the best choices if you are trying stay hydrated. Make sure your water glass is replenished often, to remind yourself to keep drinking it.

If you’re planning on drinking alcoholic beverages, it’s recommended that women drink no more than 3 drinks on a single occasion, and that men drink no more than 4 drinks. Following these guidelines will reduce your risk of injury or harm. And if you do drink, arrange for a safe way to get home- don’t get behind the wheel.

4) Pass on the chicken fingers and fries

If you’re heading to a patio, you’re probably going to end up ordering something to eat. Don’t starve yourself all day- have a healthy snack low in sugar and fat before you arrive at the restaurant to avoid overeating. And when it comes to choosing something from the menu, avoid ordering high fat, fried or greasy foods.

5) Clean your hands

Make sure to clean your hands before eating, drinking, or preparing food, and after using the washroom or touching high traffic surfaces like doorknobs. If you can get to a sink, use warm water and rub the soap in your hands for at least 15 seconds. Using very hot or very cold water makes it less likely that you’ll wash your hands for long enough. Remember, the action of rubbing soap on your hands is what lifts dirt and bacteria off your hands, which is then rinsed away by the water. You’re not going to ‘kill’ any bacteria by using scalding hot water to wash your hands!

If you can’t get to a sink with running water and soap, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer instead. You’ll still need to rub the sanitizer into your hands for 15 seconds to ensure your hands are properly cleaned.

About the author

Sybil Millar

Sybil Millar is the Communications Advisor for Infection Prevention and Control, Infectious Diseases, the Ross Tilley Burn Centre and the Critical Care program at Sunnybrook.

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