Be safe for the carnival


Be  safe for the carnival

The Caribbean carnival season  has arrived in Toronto and it means beautiful colours, lots of fun and activities with live music and dancing. However, before you take part in the carnival, here are some tips for staying healthy during this event.

Take care of your skin

Darker skins are less likely to be affected by sunburn than lighter skins. However, low risk doesn’t mean no risk. It is still important, therefore, to wear sunscreen when outdoors. Our skin develops hyperpigmentation after 5-10 minutes in the sun.

The Canadian Dermatology Association recommends the use of sunscreens for protection against Ultra Violet (UV) rays. How do we know which sunscreen to use? Sunscreens are graded by Sun Protection Factor or SPF.   The SPF measures how well sunscreen will protect skin from harmful Ultra Violet (UV) rays from the sun.

The sunscreen you use should have at least a minimum SPF of 30. Sunscreens should be used with shades, hats and clothing to provide as much protection as possible. If you have sensitive skin, try a small amount of sunscreen on your arm and check for any reaction up to 48 hours later. People allergic or intolerant to the chemicals in sunscreens should use products labelled “chemical‐free”.

Stay hydrated

Water is essential for the maintenance of many body functions. It helps you control your body temperature. It also helps your digestion. aids metabolism, carries nutrients throughout your body, helps get rid of waste and cushions your organs and joints.

This Carnival season while playing mas’or  jumping up behind the big truck, make sure you take time to drink enough water so you can stay healthy.

Every day we lose water through waste elimination, breathing, exercising, sweating, going for long walks, or dancing. If you do not replenish this loss, you can get dehydrated.

Signs of dehydration include thirst, dry mouth and lips, headache, dizziness and strong smelling or dark urine (sometimes dark urine may also be present if we are taking certain medications).

You can also judge your hydration by the amount of urine you produce.

Get into the habit of drinking water regularly. Drink a glass of water when you wake up in the mornings and keep drinking throughout the day. Walk with a refillable water bottle. If you wish, add flavourful ingredients to your water for a different taste.

Some foods have high water content. Choosing fruits and vegetables like watermelon, oranges, celery and cucumber as snacks can help keep you hydrated.,Or have a cup of corn or vegetable soup.

The bottom line is don’t ignore your thirst.

Some groups are at risk for dehydration more than others. Children are vulnerable as they are sometimes not well equipped to regulate their thirst or may not ask for a drink when they are thirsty.  Older adults who are afraid of frequent urination or who have issues accessing drinks or food, can also be at risk for dehydration.  Encourage these vulnerable group to drink water.

Stay active

If you will be participating in the parade and or plan to be on your feet for long periods on the  weekend, ensure that you are wearing comfortable shoes with good support to reduce joint and muscle pain.

Should you choose to enjoy the weekend by sitting in a chair rather than on your feet, try to avoid staying in the same position for long periods of time and move every ten minutes. To help increase postural relief, practice the following:

Move a bit forward in your chair so that both feet are shoulder width apart and gripping the floor with knees bent at a 90 degree angle. Next, bring your hands to your sides, palms facing out, tilt your hips a bit forward, and take a deep breath in to allow your ribs to rise. Bring your shoulder blades down and together, while tucking your chin in.

When you are not practicing this technique, try to sit with your back supported.

Lastly, if you wish to be active on social media throughout the event, be aware of your body posture and do your best to avoid the “text-neck syndrome”. The more you bring your head forward to look down at your phone, the more pressure is being added to your neck and shoulders which can cause a significant amount of discomfort. When looking at your phone ,  keep your shoulders relaxed and square and keep phone at chin level, and ensure your neck is not bent forward.

Make this year’s carnival a healthy and  enjoyable one.


(This article was prepared by Denah Smith,  a nurse practitioner. Tameika Shaw, a registered dietitian and Paulina Cavicchia, a registered kinesiologist, at the

TAIBU Community Health Centre in  Scarborough,Ontario.)