June/July 2012 - Issue VII

Summer Health and Safety Tips
Author: Angel S.

Summer is coming, and we are all looking forward to spending time outside.  Outdoor activities bring back childhood memories of fun in the sun, barbeques with family, and vacations.  While out enjoying your summer activities keep these healthy tips in mind. We, and our children, need to be physically active, even during the summer.  There are numerous activities that children and adults like to enjoy such as frisbee throwing, swimming, jogging on the beach, volley ball, and ball games.  Encourage your children to be physical, but also teach them to be smart while playing in the sun.  Go over all of the following summer health tips so that everyone in the family stays safe.

First, let’s talk about sun safety.  The sun can not only cause burns, it causes premature aging, rashes and skin cancer. There are some simple steps you can take to protect yourself and those you love from the sun’s damaging rays.    Your children may argue now, but they’ll love you for it later.  Here are some tips you should keep in mind.

1.  Always wear broad spectrum sun screen that has at least a 15 SPF factor.  An even higher SPF factor sunscreen would be better for young children, because their skin is thinner and will burn easier.  Remember to cover all body parts, even your ears, and the tops of your feet, your hands, and the back of your neck.  Broad spectrum sunscreens protect against a higher percentage of UBV and UVA rays, offering even more protection, which is the goal. 

2.  Wear a hat or use an umbrella.  There are many funky hats around these days. Pick one that you like and go out with style while walking on the beach.    Sun bonnets for little girls and baseball caps for boys make cute accouterments to bathing suits.   Beach umbrellas are a wise investment if you plan on spending time at the water often.

3.  Avoid direct sun between 10am and 4pm if possible.  This is the hottest time of day, and therefore the sun is most damaging to your skin.  If you do have to be out during these hours, always wear a strong sunscreen, and preferably a light weight, long sleeve shirt and a hat.   Light colored clothing is best.  Even during early morning or late afternoon hours the sun can do damage, so it’s wise to use sunscreen during these times also. 4.  Remember to use a waterproof sunscreen while swimming, and reapply it liberally during the day. 

5.  Don’t forget your cheap sun glasses!  You should always protect your eyes from the sun.  UV rays are very damaging to your eyes and even more so during the hot summer days.  Let the kid’s pick themselves some big, wild glasses and have fun.  They’ll feel like movie stars, and you’ll feel good knowing their eyes will be protected for years to come.  Another good idea is to get them some goggles for swimming.

Everyone should practice sun safety, but some people are even more susceptible to sun damage than others.  You have probably heard that lighter skinned people get skin cancer more often.  This is true, but there are also other factors to consider.  The following are all things that can increase your chances of damage from UV rays:

• A family history of skin cancer• If you have already had an incidence of skin cancer• Lots of moles, irregular shaped moles, or large moles• Light hair color• Having freckles• Some medical conditions such as lupus• Some medications including birth control pills, and some antidepressants

This is by no means an exhaustive list.  It is just a guideline that offers suggestions so that you can be aware, and take extra precautions should any of it apply to you.   Never take your health lightly.  Speak to your doctor and pharmacist about any conditions and medications you are taking.  They should be able to tell you how to lower your risk of damage while in the sun. Another very important thing to remember is to stay well hydrated.  Always drink enough water, and make sure your children do as well. Since children are usually more active, they need even more water than adults.  Make sure everyone gets in at least their 8 glasses a day.  Staying hydrated can also help ward off sun stroke.  Always remember to take the cooler along, packed with water when going to the beach or boating. When going hiking or camping, you can get packs that have water bags inside, called bladders. 

Along with making sure to get enough water in, make sure to take frequent breaks during activities.  Giving your body time to cool down will help to keep you from getting heat stroke. It is especially important for older adults to take frequent breaks during hot days.

While you are taking a break during your hike, make sure to reapply insect repellant.  You always have to be on the lookout for mosquitos!  They will certainly be watching for you.  Make sure to use the insect repellant often.  There are even sunscreens that contain mosquito repellant now days.  This would be good for the times when the kid’s decide to go swimming in the creek at dusk so mosquito’s won’t carry them away.

In case you forget the insect repellant, you can put ointment from your first aid kit on any bites. It is a good idea to have a first aid kit handy even for a simple trip to the beach, but it is very important when on hiking trips, or when out boating.  Along with the first aid kit, you should make sure you have all other supplies you might need, such as flashlights, blankets, snacks, a compass, and a map.  Also be sure and tell someone where you are going to be when you go on hiking and boating trips, and what time you are expecting to return.  That way it will be noticed sooner if something should happen. 

To keep anything from happening, always be sure and follow the posted signs and warnings at pools, beaches, and hiking trails.  Make sure your children are aware of the rules and regulations, and the reason for them.  Children will be more likely to follow rules if the reason behind them is explained. 

Another thing to remember is that you are there to have fun.  Don’t let alcohol ruin it for you.  If you are going to drink, do it in moderation, and only where it is allowed.  Drinking impairs your judgment, so it’s not a good idea to combine boating or swimming with too much alcohol.If you do, you could end up swimming when you were supposed to be boating!

You’ll also want to keep an eye on the weather.  Thunderstorms can pop up at unexpected times during the summer, so always be prepared.