At last, summer is upon us. It is a time to revel in the words of Keats:
“The poetry of the earth is never dead:
When all the birds are faint with the hot sun,
And hide in cooling trees …”
Whether you hike, ride, swim, run, garden or travel, savor the season. But do it safely. Every year, summer takes its toll from those who don’t respect its powers. Here are some common summertime health hazards, and tips for keeping yourself and your loved ones safe.
The strong sun
It’s simple: too much sun can be dangerous. Protect your skin by limiting your exposure to direct sun. Wear sunglasses and a hat that protects your head, neck and face.
Be aware there’s a difference between sunscreen, which absorbs ultraviolet radiation, and sunblock. Health experts advise you to apply both before venturing into the blazing sun. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends an SPF of 30 or greater, applied in the correct amount and reapplied as needed.
When it’s hot, you sweat. Keep your fluids in balance by drinking more water and other fluids. If you fall behind, you may experience muscle cramps or even go into shock.
When your car sits in the summer sun, interior temperatures rise quickly as the sun’s rays are amplified by the glass. This is dangerous to children and pets, who shouldn’t be left alone in a parked car.
Similarly, remember that interior surfaces become scorching hot. Avoid putting little ones in car seats that have been baking in the heat. Their skin is even more tender than yours.
Insects and repellents
With the summery explosion of insects and proliferation of exposed skin, you are vulnerable to mosquitoes, ticks and other unwelcome pests. Cover legs when walking through brush and high grasses and use repellents that contain DEET, which protects against such insect-borne diseases as Lyme Disease, West Nile virus and Zika virus. But, as the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes, don’t swallow or breathe in DEET, or let it get in your eyes. It is toxic if ingested.
When dressing your child for going outside where insects are abundant, avoid using scented sprays, soaps and perfumes, and don’t dress him or her in particularly colorful clothes or floral prints.
High speeds and hard surfaces
People who ride bicycles, scooters, motorcycles, skateboards and other forms of transport should wear helmets and appropriate protective gear, including helmets and knee pads.
And obey traffic laws — motorists don’t know what you’re thinking.
Don’t swim alone. Don’t let young children play unattended in the water. Keep a phone nearby. And don’t drink alcohol and swim.
The same principles apply to boating. Carry and wear flotation devices. Obey safe boating practices. And don’t jump into fast-moving currents, or into water that hasn’t warmed. The National Center for Cold Water Safety Board says water that is 50 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit is “immediately dangerous,” and that your ability to breathe is impaired when the water temperature is below 77 degrees.
And for your safety and the safety of others, learn CPR. You could save a life.
Every year, people lose fingers, hands and eyes to fireworks that explode unexpectedly. Even sparklers can cause severe burns. Fireworks should be handled by sober adults wearing eye protection. Focus on fireworks safety, including for your pets, especially if you’re at a neighborhood display in a city where fireworks are legal.
Take a look at the CDC's summer safety tips for you and for children.
And remember you can find a Providence provider near you in our online directory, whether you’re in need of primary care doctor for a routine screening or an urgent care or Express Care clinic to treat an after-hours summer injury.
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This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your health care professional's instructions.