To Your Health: Top 10 Summer Safety Tips
By Sanaz Majd, MD, Scripps Health
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 10 tips in mind for a safer summer:
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.
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 floatation 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.
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.
Stingrays and jellyfish can be abundant at San Diego beaches, especially as the water warms up. Shuffle your feet when you enter the water to let stingrays know you’re coming; they are unlikely to sting unless you step on them. If you do get stung by a ray or jellyfish, alert a lifeguard.
Going boating? Make sure everyone has a life jacket and the boat has required safety equipment. San Diego’s waterways can get crowded in summer, so keep an eye out for watercrafts such as jet skis, paddleboards and kayaks. Never operate any type of watercraft while distracted or drinking alcoholic beverages.
Fireworks cause thousands of injuries every year. More than 80 percent of emergency room fireworks injuries involve legal fireworks— handheld sparklers, for example, can burn at more than 1200 degrees. If you do use legal fireworks, keep them away from young children and always have an adult present. Light fireworks one at a time, back away to a safe distance after lighting, and never try to re-light them if they don’t ignite. Keep a hose or bucket of water nearby in case of fire, and soak used fireworks before putting them into the trash. The safest way to enjoy fireworks? Attend a professional display.
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.
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.
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.
Taking a summer road trip? With more cars on the roads and tourists driving in unfamiliar areas, motor vehicle safety is more important than ever. Buckle up every time you’re in the car, and ensure children use an age-appropriate car or booster seat. Practice distraction-free driving and keep your eyes on the road.
Sanaz Majd, MD, is a family medicine specialist with Scripps Health.. “To Your Health” is brought to you by the physicians and staff of Scripps. For more information or for a physician referral, please call 1-800-SCRIPPS or visit www.scripps.org.