Summer is the best time of year, and I'm sure most of you would agree. The weather is perfect for having picnics, travelling to the cottage or just sitting out on the patio having a bbq with your friends. However, One must keep in mind that along with all these fun activities, the summer months do present some health risks.

The hot weather and long days allow us to enjoy a lot of time outdoors, but as the temperature and humidity rises, so does the risk for heat-related illness. Dehydration, heat exhaustion and other major health problems can bring a good time to a disappointing end.

Luckily, if you follow these tips you can keep your cool when the days are hot.

Dress for the Occasion

Wearing clothes that are lightweight, loose and light-coloured will help keep you cool as they help get rid of the heat your body releases. Natural fabrics such as cotton and linen also help because they breathe better. Avoid wearing synthetics. If you have long hair, tie it back away from your face. Always remember to wear your sunglasses!

Stay Hydrated

Keeping hydrated ensures that your body stays at a normal temperature. Alcohol and caffiene can dehydrate you if you drink too much. Drink throughout the day even if you're not thirsty. You could still be dehydrated even though you're not thirsty.

Sunburn Prevention

Wear a light-coloured hat or use an umbrella to protect yourself from the sun and be sure to regularly apply sunscreen exposed skin. Sunscreen should be SPF 15 or higher. Apply the sunscreen at least 20 minutes before going outside and reapply ever couple hours. Sunburns and tans indicate slightly damaged skin and they make it harder for your body to cool down. Sunburns can have negative long-term effects on skin such as skin cancer.

Stay Cool Inside

Close windows, curtains and blinds in the morning to block the sun's rays and keep your home cooler during the day. Open the windows at night to let cooler, fresher air in. Turn off as many lights and electronics as you can as they often release a large amount of heat. Set up fans around the house, but remember that they only move the air around. For better results, place the fans next to windows or a bowl of ice.

Eat Cool Meals

Heavy and hot meals add heat to your body. Instead - try eating cold summer meals like salad, seafood and sandwiches. Make popsicles and smoothies for dessert and try frozen fruits such as bananas, berries and grapes. If possible, cook your meals outside on the barbeque instead of on the stove. This keeps you much cooler as your home won't be heat up because of the stove.

Find Shelter

Spend some time in an air conditioned building. This is the best way to escape high temperatures. If you don't have air conditioning at home, shopping malls, movie theatres and libraries are great places to stay cool.

Water Works

Bathe, shower and soak your feet regularly for an instant cool down. Visit your community swimming pool, fill up the wading pool for your kids and load up those water guns to help beat the heat.

Change your Routine

If you exercise outdoors, try being active in the morning or evening when it is cooler outside and the air quality is higher. Try to avoid activities in direct sunlight and get active in the pool or shady areas. Take regular breaks and drink plently of fluid. It's a good idea to avoid strenuous activities altogether during a heat wave.

Watch for Signs of Heat-Related Illness

During a heat wave, regularly check in on family, neighbors and friends. Children, seniors and people with chronic diseases are especially suscepticle to heat-related illness and some medications actually increase the risk. Never, NEVER leave any living thing (or your ice cream) in a car unattended on a hot day. If you or someone with you starts to experience headaches, weakness, dizziness, muscle cramps, nausea, vomiting or a rapid heartbeat after sun exposure they are probaly suffering from heat exhaustion or another heat-related illness. Try to bring the body's temperature down and find somewhere cool to lie down, drink water, and apply ice packs if they're available. If symptoms don't improve after an hour, contact a doctor. If any of these signs are accompanied by a fever, fainting or confusion, get medical help immediately.

It's hard not to overindulge during the summer - especially if you're in an area where winter consumes more than half the year. By following the simple steps above you'll stay cool, healthy and get the most out of your summer.