Are you a sun worshipper? Here’s how to keep cool

Musicians' Assistance Program

Volume 111, No. 7/8July, 2011

Cindy Green, LCSW

The office of the Musicians’ Assistance Program is your one-stop shop for musicians’ health. We offer counseling – both one-on-one and in groups – as well as information on all kinds of social services, including health insurance, food stamps and more. All services are free to Local 802 members. Contact us at or (212) 397-4802.

Summer has arrived and so have the heat and the humidity. Summer in the city can be harsh and the heat poses some real health risks. The sun can be inviting and there are certainly benefits to it – Vitamin D and bright light to improve your mood – but everyone needs to be aware of how to protect yourself from sunburn, heat exhaustion and the risk of skin cancer.

Air conditioners seem to be a necessity for city summers but running them continually can really run up your electric bill. Use the thermostat function so that your air conditioner will shut itself off at the desired temperature and don’t set it any lower than 78 degrees. If you don’t have an air conditioner, use a fan when you’re in the room but turn it off when you leave. Fans are especially effective at night when they bring the cool air in from outside. During the day, although fans will not cool the room, they will help you feel cooler by keeping the air moving (and drying your sweat). Keep the shades turned upward during the day which will reflect the heat but allow some light in. Plenty of public places are air conditioned. New York City offers cooling centers during heat waves which are located around the city or consider spending time in libraries, movie theaters or malls where there is air conditioning.

Everyday household appliances give off some heat, so unplug coffee makers and toasters when they’re not in use. Light bulbs also produce heat, so during the day, keep your lights turned off. Old-fashioned light bulbs should be replaced with Energy Star fluorescent light bulbs which use two-thirds less energy and generate less heat. Avoid the oven and stove as much as you can; stick to food that can be eaten chilled. The clothes dryer also gives off a lot of heat. When you can’t avoid using the oven or doing laundry, try to schedule these heat producing activities for the evenings when it cools down.

Stay out of the sun as much as you can between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. when the sun’s radiation levels are highest. When possible, find the tree-lined sidewalks and use them. Use sunscreen with at least an SPF of 15. It is important to keep yourself hydrated in the summer and water is always the best choice. Avoid alcoholic drinks and those with caffeine and sugar as these promote dehydration. Decaffeinated iced coffee and unsweetened herbal iced teas are good alternatives. However, if you’re living with heart, kidney or liver disease or if you’re on a fluid-restricted diet you should check with your doctor before increasing your fluid intake.

Loose fitting, light colored clothes are recommended. Light colors reflect the sun’s rays and the loose fit will allow your body to take advantage of any cool breeze that comes by. Textured fabrics are good as they allow for only part of the fabric to touch the skin. This creates air channels that remain open and promotes air circulation. The single point on your body where the most heat escapes is your head. A loose fitting hat will protect your head from the sunlight but also allow enough space to allow the heat to leave your body. Straw hats are ideal.

Warning signs for heat exhaustion include heavy sweating, fatigue, headache, pale/clammy skin, thirst, rapid heart rate, dizziness/fainting, nausea/vomiting, muscle and abdominal cramps. If you experience these symptoms, find a cool environment where you can rest, drink cool (not icy) fluids and call your doctor. Water or a sports drink containing electrolytes are good choices. Remember to check on the elderly and young children regularly as they are at higher risk for heat related illness. Additionally, those with chronic illness or obesity are also more susceptible as are pregnant women. If you fall into one of these groups, be aware of the prevention methods and symptoms of heat related illness.

If you have further questions or concerns in the summer months, don’t hesitate to contact the MAP office at (212) 307-4802 or e-mail us at