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Here Comes the Sun – Tips for a Healthy Summer

Being out in the sun's rays is a refreshing way to defrost from a long winter. Spending time outside is also a great way to get exercise, reduce stress and soak up some vitamin D.

The sun's rays, although enjoyable, are powerful and can be harmful. There are ways to protect yourself and your loved ones from heat illnesses, sunburns, and raising the risk of cancers.

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Safety tips

Here are some tips from our wellness program partner Vitality® and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on staying safe in the summer sun and heat.

Use sunscreens with an SPF

Apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen in a thick layer to all exposed skin and have someone help apply it to hard-to-reach places. Make sure to choose a sunscreen that filters out UVA and UVB rays, and has an SPF of 15 or higher before going outside.

Here's an important sunscreen tip - make sure it hasn't expired. Check the expiration date on sunscreens. If it doesn't have an expiration date, a bottle typically has no more than a three-year shelf life and has a shorter life if stored in high temperatures.

Re-apply sunscreen often and after being in the water

Now that you've picked out sunscreen with the right SPF for you and applied it, you can't forget to reapply. Sunscreen does wear off after a couple of hours, or if the wearer is swimming, sweating, or drying off with a towel. So, make sure to reapply every two hours throughout the day and after summer activities while in the sun.

Wear sunglasses, hats, and lightweight, loose-fitting clothing

One of the best ways to protect your skin from the sun's rays is to prevent it from actually making contact. That's why sunglasses, hats, and protective warm-weather clothing are a great addition to your summer wardrobe.

Wearing sunglasses protects the eyes and the sensitive skin around the eyes from UV rays. They can help reduce the risk of developing diseases that can cause blindness such as cataracts and some types of eye cancers.

Hats that have a full brim can protect the whole head, face, neck, back of the neck, and ears from the sun. The right hat can also reduce the amount of UV radiation that reaches your eyes by 50%. Pair that with some sunglasses and you're good to go.

The CDC recommends avoiding straw hats with holes that let sunlight through.

If you decide to wear a baseball cap, incorporate other ways to protect the ears and neck such as applying sunscreen, wearing clothing that covers those areas, and staying in the shade.

If you can, wear loose-fitting, long-sleeve shirts with long pants or skirts. It's important that the clothing is lightweight and allows sweat to evaporate to help keep the body cool. If it's not practical to wear this type of clothing, t-shirts and beach cover-ups are also great options.

Clothes made from tightly woven fabric will offer the best protection from the sun. If articles of clothing get wet, they will offer less sun protection.

Wearing heavy, layered, or tight clothing traps sweat and can lead to heat-related illnesses such as heat rash, heat exhaustion, heat cramps, and heat stroke.

Limit time in the sun and heat

The sun's rays are most intense between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. If possible, try and schedule outdoor activities in the early morning or evening when it's cooler.

If you are out in the sun during peak hours, make sure to take frequent breaks from direct sunlight to relax in the shade or indoors to give your body time to recover.

Spending too much time in the sun and heat can also lead to heat-related illnesses, regardless of the type of clothing someone wears.

Pace yourself when exercising

When the weather is nice, it's a great time to get off the treadmill and go for a run outside. Be sure to pace yourself, and try to avoid exercising during peak sun intensity.

If you're someone that is not used to exercising in hot environments, gradually increase the pace as you get accustomed.

Recognize the signs of when you reach your limit. If your heart starts pounding and you start gasping for air, stop all activity, and get into a shaded area. You should especially stop and cool off if you start to feel lightheaded, confused, weak, or faint.

Stay hydrated

When out in the heat, especially if you're exerting a lot of energy, drink plenty of hydrating fluids. Don't wait until you're thirsty. Avoid sugary or alcoholic drinks when in the heat. These types of beverages can also lead to more body fluid loss.

Heavy sweating can lead to losing the salt and minerals the body needs. A sports drink, especially one without sugar, is a great option to help replenish what the body lost while sweating.

Don't forget about your furry friends, too. Make sure pets have plenty of water to drink, preferably in a shady area, and limit their time in the heat.

How Allstate Benefits and Vitality can help

The Self-Funded Program through Allstate Benefits is designed to help small to mid-sized business owners gain control over their health care costs. With flexible plan designs, additional coverage options, and value-added features, employers can build a plan to fit the needs of their members.

The wellness program through Vitality is available with most plan designs. With this unique program, along with the self-funded plan, employees can get healthier, while enhancing and protecting their lives. When plan members do healthy right, they can lower their health care expenses.

Vitality offers multiple resources for members, such as sunburn and skin cancer interactive tools, as well as informative articles on staying safe in the sun.

Reach out to your Allstate Benefits — Group Health sales consultant for more information on options available with Vitality or adding Vitality to an existing plan.

The Self-Funded Program through Allstate Benefits provides tools for employers owning small to mid-sized businesses to establish a self-funded health benefit plan for their employees. The benefit plan is established by the employer and is not an insurance product. Allstate Benefits is a marketing name for: Integon National Insurance Company in CT, NY and VT; Integon Indemnity Corporation in FL; and National Health Insurance Company in CO, WA and all other states where offered. For employers in the Allstate Benefits Self-Funded Program, stop-loss insurance is underwritten by these insurance companies in the noted states. National Health Insurance Company, Integon National Insurance Company, and Integon Indemnity Corporation are rated "A+" (Superior) by A.M. Best.

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