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A Head-to-Toe Guide for Your Warm-Weather Well-Being

Swimming can be helpful for alleviating pain if you have arthritis.

“Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes” is more than a catchy tune to teach children basic anatomy. It’s also a pretty good guideline for helping you enjoy summer.

You need to protect yourself from head to toe if you want to make the most of the year’s longest and warmest days. Here’s a quick primer.

Head

Always wear a helmet when riding a bicycle. Helmets should sit comfortably and snug so that the front rim is just above a rider’s eyebrows.

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When not on your bike, wear a wide-brimmed hat to protect yourself from the sun. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends hats that shade your face, ears and the back of your neck.

Eyes

An estimated 20 percent of cataracts cases are caused by extended UV exposure, according to the National Eye Institute. Wear sunglasses with UV protection to reduce your risk.

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Ears

Swimmer’s ear is a painful condition caused by moisture trapped in ear canals, according to the American Academy of Otolaryngology. It can lead to hearing loss and recurring ear infections if left untreated. Wear ear plugs when swimming and use a towel or hair dryer to dry your ears afterward.

In addition, exposure to high decibel levels can cause hearing loss. Consider ear protection if you’re attending a summer concert or working with power tools.

Mouth

The CDC recommends keeping swimming pool pH levels between 7.2 and 7.8. Over-chlorinated water can wear down tooth enamel, leading to staining and sensitivity.

Nose

Hay fever is an allergic reaction to pollen. Symptoms include sneezing and a runny rose. Grass pollen is common in late spring and summer, according to the Mayo Clinic. Those susceptible to hay fever should avoid exposure to pollen and/or take medicine as prescribed by a doctor.

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Shoulders and Back

Summer chores can lead to sore backs and shoulders. Protect yourself by maintaining strong back muscles. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends performing back-strengthening and stretching exercises at least twice a week, standing and sitting up straight and avoiding heavy lifting. If you have to lift something heavy, bend your knees and keep your back straight. Maintaining a healthy weight also helps.

Knees

Some people with arthritis have flare-ups in high humidity. If you’re one of them, consider aquatic exercise. Water’s buoyancy can reduce the impact on joints, and heated pools can soothe pain, according to the Arthritis Foundation.

Feet

Going barefoot is a big allure to hanging at the beach or by the pool, but doing so can expose your tootsies to sunburns, plantar warts, athlete’s foot and ringworm, according to the American Podiatric Medical Association. Always apply sunscreen to your feet, concentrating on the front of the ankles and top of the feet, and wear shoes or flip-flops around the pool, at the beach or in the locker room.

Whole Body

Sunscreen protects every part of your body. The CDC recommends broad-spectrum sunscreen of SPF 15 or higher, but SPF 30 or higher is better, according to dermatologists. Use sunscreen in combination with protective clothing like hats, and reapply it every two hours and after swimming, sweating or toweling off. Use lip balm with SPF protection.

Any summer health tips we missed? Let us know in the comments. 

Check out our guide to beach safety before heading to the shore this summer.

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