” M O M M Y ! I’M ALL STICKY AND THERE’S SAND IN MY SUIT ! ! “

The Benefits of Salt, Sun and Yes, Even Sand

Hollywood_Beach_panorama

Ah, those were the days! As a school aged child living in Florida I always looked forward to the weekends when, either Daddy would go fishing and maybe, just maybe, I’d be invited to go along, or better yet, it would be one of those glorious two days that we would go spend in a cottage at the beach. Sand castles, salt spray on my tongue – oh, and sand in my bathing suit.

Coquina Key. That was my favourite, but that story belongs on a different post.

DannyGreen_11%20Sanderling%20running%201Now mind, I couldn’t swim until I was 12 years old (kinda crazy considering I grew up in Florida) but I did love to chase the waves, the seagulls and the small, quick sanderlings…the tiny birds who also chased the waves, and then let the waves chase them back!

Sea shells and seaweed, broken pieces of coral, the occasional shark’s tooth and sand dollars…all found their way into my little pail to stink up the car on the way home and draw flies as they dried in the sun on the shelves of our front stoop.

Once in the water, I would follow Mama out as far as she would let me, then make my way back to shore, letting the salt water buoy me up while I used my hands to “walk” on the bottom. Invariably, the waves would wash not only me up onto the beach, but always gave me going away present in the form of a bathing suit full of sand. All in the wrong places.

So I’d go back in the water and shake…things…trying to rinse it out. Of course as short as I was, I couldn’t go too far out…only a few feet away from where I had collected all that sand to begin with so it didn’t do a whole heck of a lot of good.

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I didn’t burn but one time each summer, but boy that one time was uncomfortable as all get out…not because it was a bad burn, but because the salt made me sticky and the residual sand I couldn’t get rid of was scratchy.

One year, I think I may have been 13 or so, I overheard some teenage girls talking about how good the sun, salt and sand was for your skin. Having just become a teen and worried about the possible onset of the dreaded  A C N E , I eavesdropped. Strange, the things you remember, because I never had a single problem with my skin until now, 47 years later.

hey-culligan-man-cartoonThe spokesman of the group mentioned things like “Hey Culligan Man!” (for those of you who remember, that was the jingle for the water softener company), exfoliation and Vitamin D.  I didn’t understand a thing she was talking about but, somehow, I never forgot.

But I got old.

One year I noticed that the skin on my legs and arms were just as flaky as a pie crust. Nothing I did helped. I’d stand under the shower until the hot water was used up, scrubbing everything with a loofah sponge and then rinse off, just knowing I’d scoured it all off. Of course, my towel would tell me otherwise when I’d dry myself.

And my hair? Oh my heck, the chlorine in the city water supply played havoc with it, conditioner or not, and seemed to be causing my skin to itch as well.

I was almost ashamed to put on a bathing suit…people can be cruel when you aren’t perfect, you know. So I just didn’t go to the beach at all for years, even though I loved it. When I finally did go, I hid at the water’s edge, covering up my legs with the wet sand. When it was time to go, I rubbed the sand off of my legs, rinsed myself off thoroughly under the public shower head (no sandy britches and hair for me!), wrapped up and went home.

When I eventually got home I re-rinsed from the neck down under the garden hose and went in to shower…and made the most amazing discovery! No flakes! Not only that, my hair was just as soft and shiny as it could be! I just couldn’t figure it out, until I remembered that incident at the beach as a teenager. And like all the old wives who tell tales, I spouted my experience to everyone I knew who was old and dried up like me.

There are so many bath products available these days: some diminish oily skin, some moisturize, some open the pores and some exfoliate (ah ha!) with tiny grains of everything from salt (again!) to apricot kernals.

4961048424_92dc1b87b8Florida sand is very fine, especially at the water’s edge. You wouldn’t be the first person to bury your legs in the sand at the beach, so while you’re at it, apply it to your arms and elbows. Then, as you rinse it off, use a little pressure. I wouldn’t advise scrubbing the tender skin of your face with beach sand though!

Water softener systems use salt to neutralize chemicals in the water and remove impurities. Now, if salt will soften city water, it can’t hurt your hair (no, I’m not saying pack your head in salt). Natural salt water has healing/antiseptic properties, you know, so it’s good for people who have skin problems like acne; as a desiccant it helps to dry up excess facial oils as well.

Vitamin D is a natural advantage to spending time in the sun. It’s not really a vitamin, by the way; it’s more like a “sun hormone”, but whatever it is, people who suffer from Winter Seasonal Affective Disorder are usually prescribed vitamin D supplements. Do the math.

istock_photo_of_sunburn_peelingOne more thing, and it’s not something I would advise doing on purpose, and nor would my cousin, Michael (now quite a famous doctor). As a teenager, he developed a bad case of acne. It was aggravated by some other skin condition or allergy, or something, that I was just too young to be interested in at the time.

His first full day in the summer sun always resulted in a bit of a sunburn…not bad, but just enough to where he would begin to peel…very thin layers…within a day or so. After that first peel, his skin would look almost healthy and it would last right up until it started turning cooler. Again, you don’t want to go getting a fierce sunburn on purpose, just to see if it would work on your flare ups, but the sun does have its advantages if you’re careful.

Okay. You’ve read everything I’ve written. Now the trick is to take it all with a grain of sea-salt, because nothing, I mean nothing, is cut and dried.

Getting a sunburn can be a dangerous thing, especially during certain times of the day…or even season. Scrubbing down indiscriminately with sand can cause minute tears in your skin and if the beach you’re visiting isn’t clean…the water is polluted or there are so many seagulls that you can’t walk in the sand without stepping in “bird squat”, as Mama used to call it…or it’s a “ghetto beach” where people pee, defecate or spit all over the place…then this is not the place to risk getting a bacterial infection from hell.

And although salt is generally good external medicine, occurrences like red tide, a vessel sinking off shore or an oil spill is going to give you contaminated water, antiseptic sea salt and all.

The only thing you want to hear by way of complaint at the beach is the kids crying, “MOMMY! I’M STICKY AND THERE’S SAND IN MY BATHING SUIT!!”

So play it safe. Use common sense. Test the waters before you leap in (pun intended!). And if you or your children or companions come up with a rash, abnormally burning eyes that can’t be explained by the salt in the water, nausea, light headedness or swelling in your extremeties, flag down the nearest life guard and call a doctor immediately.

Sun/Heat Stroke or Heat Exhaustion…What’s the Difference?


Long ago in the early to mid 1900s, a young English teacher travelled from Michigan to Florida with his wife and two young sons. It was a long time coming, this decision to “fly south”; perhaps the idea to do so stemmed from a long-standing, ongoing correspondence with a chum by the name of Thomas Edison, who knows? Regardless of what prompted the decision, Mr. Pearl packed up his little family and moved and soon he had taken up horticulture and did, indeed, work with Mr. Edison in his gardens! In the process of discovering his love of working outside with all things growing, he also learned a valuable lesson on the subjects of sun stroke and heat exhaustion!

It took awhile for their systems to adjust to the climate and eventually he learned the hard way that special care and certain precautions must be taken if one plans to live comfortably and safely  with the weather in Florida.  First he fell victim to heat exhaustion and then later, not having quite mastered recognizing the signs, had a heat stroke which was severe enough to send him to the hospital. “It was no fun, I’ll tell you,” I remember my grandfather telling me.

Funny thing about the weather in Florida. It can be only 78 degrees and yet feel as if it’s 108. Tropical humidity does that.

But then you have those wonderful tropical breezes (as long as you’re on the ‘seashore’) which seem to cool things down so dramatically. And therein lies a perception problem…and the posibilities of suffering from heatstroke.

Heat, or sun, stroke and heat exhaustion are relatively simple to avoid as long as you pay attention to the signals your body gives you. Fortunately, heat exaustion will respond readily to prompt treatment if you keep an eye out for the signs and symptoms, which are very obvious and easily interpreted. They include:

  • headache
  • nausea
  • weakness
  • thirst
  • giddiness
  • confusion and/or slurred, disjointed speech (much like a cerebral stroke)

Heat stroke is very serious and should not be dismissed lightly. It is not uncommon for fainting (“heat collapse”) to occur when one is suffering from heat exhaustion. This happens because blood pools in the extremities, causing a lack of oxygen bearing blood to the brain, interfering in the body’s natural cooling “mechanism” trigger. Worse, the onset of heat collapse is rapid and unpredictable and can be dangerous if not treated as a medical emergency.

Anyone suffering from heat exhaustion should be removed to a shady, cool location. Cool compresses, or ice packs wrapped in a cloth should be applied to the back of the neck, the armpits and groin areas and cool (not iced) water, or Gatorade which has added electrolytes, should be administered in small sips to avoid cramping and nausea. Misting the skin with a spray bottle of water will help cool things down by virtue of evaporation, which is what happens when we sweat.

It would probably be a wise practice to have small instructional posters placed in strategic locations near the most active areas outside of your home, like the patio, garage or even laundry room. Alongside of those, you might also consider something for your pets as well.

Dogs, cats and other pets are at an even greater risk for heat stroke and heat exhaustion than human beings, simply because they can’t tell you what’s wrong. And they don’t only suffer heat stroke by being closed up in a car, either. Any day that a great deal of humidity and heat can kill an animal unless you are just as aware of their comfort and safety as your own.

Make sure your pet has fresh cool water available at all times. You also want to provide   a shady place that’s well ventilated where he can escape the heat. And remember that the signs of heat stroke or heat exhaustion are quite the same for animals as they are for we two-legged critters. Confusion can be recognized by a glazed, unfocused look to the eyes when you speak to your pet, and they can become wobbly on their feet, too.

The same treatment applies to your pet who begins to show signs of a heat related condition: cool compresses in the front leg/arm pits, back of neck and groin, mist your pet with a spray bottle to utitlize the cooling effect of evaporation and offer small amounts of cool, not icy, water.

Don’t assume that spraying your dog while he’s playing in the sunshine, chasing the kids in the sprinkler, or that by jumping in the pool he will stay cool without a shady spot. Don’t forget, that fur coat your pet is wearing is going to turn into a steamy, water laden burden if he stays in the sun and there’s no breeze. Be as considerate and kind to your pets as you are with yourself and your other loved ones!

The bottom line with heat stroke, sun stroke or heat exhaustion is the same as with any other medical condition:  Be Aware! Pay Attention! Prepare in advance for any emergency situation or potential safety issue.

Above all, don’t be afraid to talk to a doctor if any or all of the symptoms of heat stroke begin to show.  Just as with any other type of stroke, detected early enough you can avoid serious, life threatening consequences. Learn the signs and keep emergency numbers on a notepad by your phone, and don’t forget to include the number to your nearest animal hospital emergency!