Summer in the shadow of COVID

Summer in the shadow of COVID

Welcome to the summer that’s gone viral. Quarantines and lockdowns are all well and good when it’s cold or rainy outside. But summertime is upon us, and the great outdoors beckons like an itch we can’t scratch. Or can we?Ashley Graber, APRN

“We really can’t have a summer where we go to places and events that are crowded with people,” warned Ashley Graber, APRN at GraceMed’s Evergreen Family Clinic. “We have to continue to social distance and wear masks, but there are still a lot of things you can do to enjoy your summer outdoors without taking unnecessary risks of exposure to the virus.”

What you have to be mindful of is other people and keeping a safe distance of at least 6 feet.  Solitary or couple activities like riding a bike, hiking or walking are generally low-risk activities, but always bring a mask for those you might encounter. Individual sports, like golf, can be relatively safe, especially with the protections that are being put in place by golf courses. But team sports like basketball or volleyball are dangerous in the COVID era. A road trip reduces risk as compared to airline travel which is still fraught with too many unpredictable risk factors to feel confident in your safety.

However you plan to enjoy your summer, remember to guard against soaking up too much sun. It’s a good idea to wear wide-brimmed hats, avoid tanning beds, and keep newborns out of the sun entirely for the first six months.

Of course, when the heat is on, your body cools down by perspiring. You can be at risk for dehydration if you don’t replace the water you sweat off. Eight or nine, eight-ounce glasses a day are recommended (unless you have been advised to restrict fluid intake by your doctor). Fruit can be another way to get the fluids you need, and berries, in particular, can be a great source of antioxidants and fiber.

Take the bite out of summer

Speaking of fluids, you should also respect your teeth this summer. That’s right, your teeth. You might be inclined to reach for a sport or energy drink to quench a summertime thirst – or even the old standby, lemonade. But take care. The sugar and acidic content of some of these drinks can erode the enamel in your teeth and cause cavities.

Also, as strong as you may think they are, your teeth should not be used to crunch ice because they can be damaged. So keep the ice in your drink.

The future looks bright if you wear shades.

Jacquelyn Smith, ODThe sun can take its toll on your eyes, too. “Sun exposure tends to have a cumulative effect,” said Dr. Jacquelyn Smith, OD at GraceMed’s Helen Galloway Clinic. “When we’re young, we don’t really think about it, but all that sunlight in your eyes over the years can lead to conditions like cataracts and macular degeneration. So sunglasses aren’t just cool; they’re smart.”

Break out the shades and wear them everywhere the sun goes. Make sure they provide 100% UV protection. Aside from making a fashion statement, sunglasses can also help you keep your vision sharp years down the road.

Stress: When the heat is on, turn it down.

Even your mental health can be assaulted by summer. For starters, the longer days and shorter nights can mess with your biological clock. You stay up later and get out of the normal rhythms of your sleep cycles. Of course, this particular summer comes fully equipped with the added stress and uncertainty of vacationing in the middle of a pandemic. Not to mention the vagaries of a future that may or may not include things like a return to school in the fall.

Jeffrey Hubbell, LSCSW

“It’s hard to think about summertime as stressful,” said Jeff Hubbell, GraceMed Lead Behavioral Health Consultant, “but we bring a lot of high hopes into every summer. Before long chasing your dream of the perfect summer can get to be a stressful pursuit. And when summer gets overshadowed by something as scary as a pandemic, it’s important to take care of yourself (self-care) by getting enough sleep, eating healthy, spending time with friends/family, and exercising. ”

If you’re a parent, summer hopefully will end with that special stress reliever you’ve been waiting for an extra long time this year: your kids’ return to the classroom. Of course, we can’t promise you that the coronavirus will be gone by fall. But if COVID-19 has taught us anything, it has to be that we owe it to ourselves and our loved ones to do all we can to keep them safe and healthy. With that in mind, please plan a visit to GraceMed to get all your kids’ vaccinations and physicals taken care of as early as possible – and avoid the crowds.