“No more homework. No more books. No more teachers’ dirty looks.” The words of 1970’s rock star Alice Cooper ring true as summer vacation approaches. It is a time for fun in the sun, the beach and being with friends.
I used to be a high school health teacher, so I know about the excitement that comes with the closure of another school year and the beginning of a freedom-filled summer. But then as a health teacher, and now as a nurse, I commit myself to reminding teens that the fun won’t stay fun unless they take care of themselves. Here’s how I talk to our young friends who are patients each year as school draws to a close.
Keep moving. You see I didn’t use the “E” word. During school you have been conditioning sports or in PE class; or walking and running down those miles of hallways to classes, (Yes, that is exercise, too.) Don’t let that effort go to waste lounging in front of the TV or playing video games for hours at a time. Walk the dog. Put on music and dance. Run on the beach, get a group together to bike or skate (with your helmet on.) If you keep moving you’ll feel better, look better and your brain will work better.
Keep hydrated. Any outdoor activities can dry you out. Staying hydrated in our hot, coastal environment is crucial and is not optional. Your body is mostly made up of water and can react drastically to losing too much of it. These are conditions that can land you in the hospital and, in severe cases, result in death.
Sip smartly. If you’re going to be having fun in the sun, freeze bottles of water and use them in a cooler to keep snacks cold. Add fresh fruit like strawberries, lemon or lime slices, or even cucumber slices to give a new twist to an ice cold, refreshing drink. Want something trendy? Try one of the many coconut water drinks now available. Remember, if your mouth is dry and you feel thirsty you are already on your way to being dehydrated. When you are back inside, keep drinking water. Staying hydrated when your body isn’t being challenged makes you more outdoors-ready later.
Eat healthy. When parents are working and teens are home for the summer, grabbing easy to nibble junk food is tempting. Instead, take a few extra minutes to put peanut butter on apples or put turkey and cheese on a tortilla and microwave it. Cutting back on junk food (I didn’t say cut it out totally) will give you the energy you need to keep up with your friends or your new summer job. Going natural is greener and going natural is cool. Cold watermelon, sweet peaches, – fruits and vegetables which are plentiful right now are quick and easy too.
Sunscreen. Do it. I mean lather it on. It only takes one good sun burn to dramatically increase your chances of skin cancer. I know, I know, it will never happen to you. But why take the chance when the solution is so easy? Besides, getting sunburned hurts! Where’s the fun in that?
Here’s to wishing all of our young friends a fun-filled and healthy summer.
By Veronica McVicker, a registered nurse at Roper-Berkeley Hospital