Strategies for Staying Safe and Healthy This Summer

The warm weather brings many opportunities to relax, unwind and have fun. While we all know the basics of outdoor safety, each summer there is an increase in emergency room visits and a spike in certain types of injuries and illnesses.

Dr. Penny Stern, Director, Preventive Medicine, North Shore-LIJ Health System, says, “During the summer, the focus is often on outdoor activities. It’s important that everyone stay aware and use common sense.  Sunscreen is important year-round but especially during the summer when people are outdoors for extended periods of time and may also be participating in water sports. You need to re-apply sunscreen every few hours, and after being in the water or if you have been sweating.”

As a reminder of what we can all do to stay safe and healthy during these warm months, Dr. Stern has provided some helpful tips:

Be Sun Smart
The statistics on skin cancer are sobering. Over the past three decades, more people have had skin cancer than all other cancers combined. And, nearly one in five Americans will develop skin cancer in the course of their lifetime.

Sunscreen is your best preventive weapon for protecting your skin from ultraviolet (UV) radiation, whether you’re at the beach or just out for a brief walk. This means liberally applying sunscreen with at least sun protection factor (SPF) 15 (most medical professionals suggest an SPF of 45) that contains both UVA and UVB protection, and reapplying if you’re out in the sun for more than two hours and after swimming, sweating or toweling off. Don’t forget to wear sunglasses, a hat and clothing that covers your arms and legs.

Heat-related illness is also common this time of year. While many believe that only infants and the elderly are at risk, the reality is that anyone can get sick from the heat, particularly those who participate in strenuous exercise in hot weather. Stay hydrated, dress in loose, lightweight, light-colored clothing and schedule outdoor activities for morning and evening hours to minimize your chance of heat exhaustion and heat stroke.

Use Caution in and around Water
Water-related activities are a great way to beat the summer heat, but safety is essential. Here are a few simple ways to greatly reduce risks when at the pool or the beach.

  • Supervise children when in or around water.
  • Teach kids to swim. Swimming lessons can dramatically lower the chance of drowning.
  • Learn cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).
  • Never swim alone.
  • Don’t dive into a pool or any body of water that is not deep enough.
  • Wear a life vest at all times while boating.

Wear a Helmet
One of the easiest and most effective ways to stay safe during the summer is to wear a helmet and other safety gear when biking and skating, as well as when riding horses, scooters, and all-terrain vehicles. Just how beneficial are helmets? Studies have concluded that they can reduce the risk of traumatic brain injury by as much as 85 percent. By wearing a helmet on a regular basis, you will also set a great example for others on the importance of head protection.

Don’t Get Burned
Fireworks go hand-in-hand with Independence Day celebrations. Yet, emergency rooms frequently see patients throughout the month of July due to fireworks-related injuries.

Sparklers, bottle rockets and other fireworks can cause serious burns and eye injuries when not used properly. Follow these safety tips if you plan to partake in any pyrotechnics this summer:

  • Don’t let children play with or ignite any fireworks.
  • Don’t try to relight or pick up fireworks that have not fully-ignited.
  • Never throw or point fireworks at another person.
  • Keep water handy in case of fire.
  • Ensure fireworks are legal in your area before buying or using them.

Grills, barbecues, campfires, and fire pits are also common sources of summertime burns. Parents need to keep kids away from sources of heat, including fires that have gone out. White ashes can be hot enough to cause serious burns.

Avoid Dangerous Pests
Memorial Day is the unofficial start to summer and the beginning of pest season. It’s important to be aware of the risks posed by summer’s most dangerous pests and how to protect yourself and your family.

Mosquitoes are known for their irritating biting habits, but their greater threat is in their ability to transmit diseases including West Nile Virus. To avoid bites, the best strategy is to stay indoors during dawn and dusk when mosquitoes are most active. An insect repellent containing DEET can also help to protect exposed skin when you are outdoors.

Ticks are another potentially dangerous pest. Black-legged deer ticks, found in New York and throughout the Northeast can transmit Lyme disease which can affect joints, the heart and the nervous system if left untreated. To prevent the risk of Lyme disease, wear long pants, long-sleeved shirts and closed-toe shoes. Regularly apply insect repellent as directed on the label and stay on trails while hiking.

Like the old adage goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. By playing it safe this summer, you can greatly reduce your risk of injury and illness and make the most of this fun time of year.

Have questions related to women’s health? Call the Katz Institute for Women’s Health Resource Center at 855-850-KIWH (5494) to speak with a women’s health specialist.