Harvard Men's Health Watch

Health tips for the dog days of summer

Summertime, and the living is easy — if you stay healthy, that is. Most men think of winter as the "sick season," but summer's seasonal woes can creep up on you when you least expect them. Here are a few tips for staying cool, dealing with the sun's awesome radiant energy, managing poison ivy, and warding off the insects that like summer as much as you do.

Heat and humidity

Heat can turn an August day into a medical crisis. But with simple precautions, you can stay safe this summer.

Your metabolism always generates heat, and when you exercise, your muscles crank out 20 times more. That's okay if body heat can pass out into cool air. As the temperature rises, though, cooling becomes difficult, then impossible. The evaporation of sweat can also take away lots of body heat, but as the humidity rises, this too becomes difficult, then impossible. Heat that can't be shed externally remains trapped in the body. That's when problems develop. Some are mild (muscle cramps), others serious (heat exhaustion), and some can be lethal (heat stroke).

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