Pool parties, barbecues, beach outings and bonfires … summer fun is in full swing. Enjoy the sun and warm weather even more by taking steps to protect yourself and your family from injuries and illnesses that tend to be more common in the summer months. Keep these tips in mind for a safer summer:
• Avoid the burn
Sun exposure is the main culprit in the majority of skin problems from sunburn to cancer. Protect your skin with wide-brimmed hats, sun-protective clothing and an above-30 SPF sunscreen that protects against both UVA and UVB rays (even on cloudy days) preferably containing ingredients titanium and/or zinc oxide. Make sure to reapply sunscreen every two hours. Harmful rays can pass through car windows as well, so be sure to wear sunscreen while driving.
• Pool play
Follow all posted safety rules at swimming pools and know where to find emergency safety equipment such as life preservers and rescue poles. Ensure children wear appropriate flotation devices and never leave a child unattended. Keep a mobile phone nearby in case you need to call 911. If you have a backyard pool or spa, cover it when not in use and invest in a pool lock for added safety.
• Ocean awareness
Whether you’re swimming, bodysurfing or just playing in the waves, avoid going into the ocean alone and always let someone on shore know that you’re going in. Stay in a designated swimming area where lifeguards can easily see you, and ask about rip currents or other dangers. If you do get caught in a current, don’t panic or try to swim out of it. Stay relaxed and swim parallel to shore until you’re free.
• Keep cool
When the temperature climbs, so does the risk of heat stroke and heat exhaustion. Symptoms of heat-related illness include muscle cramps, fatigue, weakness, dizziness, disorientation, nausea and vomiting. Immediate medical attention is a must for both heat stroke and heat exhaustion. Call 911 and help the person cool down in the shade with cold water. Stay extra-hydrated in the summer months, especially if drinking alcohol. Carry a few water bottles with you everywhere you go.
• Food safety
Beach cookout? Take extra precautions to keep food safe. Wash your hands or use a hand sanitizer before handling food. Make sure that foods are cooked to the proper temperature to kill bacteria, and use separate plates for raw and cooked foods. Keep cold food on ice and don’t eat food that has been left out for more than two hours.
• Poison plants
Contact with the oils secreted by poison ivy and poison oak may cause an itchy, blistering skin rash 12 to 72 hours later. In most cases, the rash can be treated at home with cool compresses, calamine lotion and oral antihistamines; serious reactions such as breathing difficulty and facial swelling require emergency medical care. Protect yourself by avoiding contact with the plants or anything they may have touched, such as clothing, animal fur or hiking equipment.
Ganesh is a pediatrician with Scripps Coastal Medical Center. For more information call 1-800-SCRIPPS or visit www.scripps.org.