By Dr. Julie T. Chen, M.D.

As we start entering the summer months, it almost seems too soon to worry about the Memorial Day festivities and then soon it’ll be July Fourth. It seems that Christmas just was around the last corner, wasn’t it?

"Health Tips for Summer by Dr. Julie Chen"But, seeing that the summer months are imminently upon us, there are some things we need to keep in mind regarding our summer time habits. For most of us, summer is a time that brings up positive memories of warm weather, water fights, beautiful flowers, and summer vacations. Along with these beautiful memories, there should be some level of vigilance about our skin health as well as making sure that we don’t overindulge in summertime sweets.

Just so that I don’t dampen the wonderful spring/summer spirit that we are all eager to embrace, I will limit my health tips to just three most common tips I give to my patients in my clinic of integrative medicine in San Jose, CA.

1. Sunscreen is a MUST. No matter whether you want a tan or not, the UV index these days are more conducive to burns rather than just a glowing tan. So, make sure that you use an SPF of at least 25 if you will be out in the sun and make sure you reapply every 1-2 hours depending on how active you are and whether you are sweating or not in your activity. Even if you have darker skin and rarely burn, we are unfortunately seeing more skin issues these days even with patients who have darker skin. So, if not for your concern for skin cancer prevention, you should be applying sunscreen to help prevent wrinkles, age spots, and premature skin aging changes. For those of you more interested in sun protection, I would recommend an SPF of 50.

2. Avoid excess sweets…and yes, that means too many fruits as well. It may be surprising but the holiday season isn’t the only season where I see elevated levels of pre-diabetes or high triglyceride issues in my clinic. Because of the abundance of fresh fruits, patients tend to indulge in this during the summer months…which unfortunately leads to elevation of blood sugar levels and hypertriglyceridemia. So, despite fruits being good for you, nothing is good for you in excess. So, keep that in mind as you enter the summer months. I usually recommend that my patients keep their fruit intake still to about 2 servings a day at most. If you have diabetes or high triglycerides already, I would highly recommend keeping fruit servings to one per day only so as not to see a spike in your levels at your next lab check-up. Making sure not to eat processed sweets like ice cream is a given…I know you’ve heard enough about that if you have sugar issues from your doctor. So avoid the ice cream and excess fruits, then you’ll still get a gold star at your next doctor’s visit.

3. Keep those critters off of you. What I mean is that you should pay attention to making sure that you are well protected against ticks and mosquitoes and such. The negative impact of West Nile viral infections and Lyme disease is well documented. Unfortunately, most of us are too busy enjoying the summer months to pay much attention to making sure we use the clothing and body sprays that will help repel these critters. Most doctors don’t address this aspect of summer health and that’s why I’m mentioning it now. If you are into outdoors activities, make sure to protect yourself against these critters that may cause health issues long into the autumn and winter months. Just be mindful about it…that’s all I’m asking of you to keep you and your loved ones healthy while enjoying the warm beautiful summer months.

I am a great fan of the summer months because the nice weather usually prompts my patients to exercise more. But make sure you exercise during the cooler hours and to keep these three health tips in mind. This way, you and I can both feel more secure with the idea that you’ll get through the upcoming months safely…all the while hopefully having yet another summer of creating memories you’ll smile about for years to come.