At my house, the first day of summer is always greeted with great excitement. For my kids, summer is swimming, playing outside, camping, boating, building forts, and all sorts of other outdoor activities. I like summer too. I love finally getting to eat the yummy garden produce planted in spring. I enjoy staying up late and not feeling guilty (after all, it’s still light outside!). I especially enjoy the warm mornings, as I don’t like getting up in a cold house. Yes, summer is a great time of year!

Despite all the fun, the added outdoor activities do increase the rate of accidental injuries. However, this is no reason to stay cooped up indoors. We have five safety tips that will help you avoid an unexpected catastrophe:

1 Protect your skin.

Always wear sunscreen on your exposed skin. Sunscreen with SPF of 50 is best. Remember, it must be re-applied every 1 to 2 hours to provide the best protection from harmful rays. Long sleeves are a great option as well, especially if you have a shirt made from lightweight breathable fabric.

Keep in mind that sunburn can cause more harm than a day or two of discomfort. In fact, each sunburn a person gets dramatically increases their risk of melanoma (a common skin cancer) as well as squamous and basal cell cancers (which can be quite disfiguring).

2 Check for ticks.

If you are anywhere near long grass, trees, old buildings, or outside dogs or cats, you are at risk for a tick bite. Lyme disease is a terrible illness that can be transmitted through the bites of certain ticks. In most cases, the tick must be attached for at least 24 to transmit the disease. Unfortunately, ticks are very small and many are not discovered until they have been embedded on the person for several days and have grown in size. To be safe, you need to carefully check yourself (and your kids) for ticks each night. Remember, ticks prefer to attach themselves to warm, moist parts of the body, such as the armpits or groin.

To remove ticks, pull them gently from the skin with a pair of tweezers—making sure the head comes out with the body. (Pulling slowly and not twisting increases the chance of the head remaining attached.) Many folk remedies recommend coating ticks with Vaseline or other substances, but this is not necessary. A quick removal with a tweezers is the best method. Once the tick is gone, you should be fine. However, if you develop a rash or fever within four to six weeks of the tick exposure, seek medical attention.

3 Use mosquito repellant.

Mosquitos can be real pests, especially at dusk or dawn when they are most active. Although we don’t have malaria in this country, mosquitoes do sometimes carry viruses that can make one very sick. West Nile Virus, Equine encephalitis, and St. Louise virus are just a few of them. Mosquito repellants containing DEET are the most effective for preventing mosquito bites (as a bonus, it also repels ticks). However, DEET is somewhat toxic and exposure should be limited. It would be better to spray it on clothing than to apply it directly to your skin.

4 Practice water safety.

It may sound like common sense, but wear life jackets when boating. It doesn’t matter if you are an excellent swimmer. In a boating accident, even good swimmers may drown—especially if knocked unconscious. If your child can’t swim the length of a pool—he or she needs to ALWAYS wear a life jacket with head flotation, unless within arms length of a supervising adult. In my career, I have taken care of way too many tragic drowning victims, who drowned under the noses of well meaning, but distracted adults. It is very easy to be distracted at a pool party and it only takes 1-2 minutes for a submerged child to suffer permanent brain damage. Don’t take the risk, put on the life preserver.

5 Stay hydrated.

On hot summer days, it is easy to get dehydrated. Always carry water with you and remember to drink liberally. Children are especially prone to dehydration and may not stop their play at the first signs of thirst. Keep water handy and set a timer to remind everyone to tank up. Remember, water is the healthiest beverage you can drink. Stay away from juices and sodas.

How much water should you drink?  The standard advice is to drink a minimum of 8 glasses of water a day (64 ounces). This is a good rule of thumb even for children. Of course, on a hot summer day, people will need to drink more, particularly if they are sweating a lot.

 

Well, those tips are not so difficult are they? With a little bit of caution and a lot of common sense, you can have a safe, enjoyable summer. Remember to stay healthy and have fun!


About the Author

Rachel Nelson MD

graduated from Loma Linda University and completed a pediatric residency at UC Davis. She has a passion for helping children reach their full potential. She is married to a colorectal surgeon and together they have two children: Amy and Michael. Dr. Nelson enjoys playing outside with her kids, gardening, and music.

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