Summer Safety Tips to Keep You and Your Family Safe

With warmer temperatures and children out of school, summer is the time to enjoy some rest and relaxation. It’s also when certain types of injuries and illnesses are more likely to occur. This is why it’s important to put into play some basic summer safety tips. From barbecues and swim parties to trampolines and fireworks, summer is loaded with fun, as well as opportunities to step up your safety game.

“Safety definitely begins at home,” says Ro Ennis, Assistant Vice President, Community Health and Education at the Katz Institute for Women’s Health. “By being aware of the potential risks and using some common-sense strategies, you can avoid many of the most common summertime injuries and illnesses.”

Water Safety

Swimming is a favorite summer activity for both children and adults. On average, nearly 5,000 individuals each year in the United States receive emergency care for injuries suffered in swimming pools (source: U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission). Water safety should be a top priority. This includes never leaving young children unattended near water, always swimming with a buddy and ensuring that everyone in the family learns to swim well.

Barbecue Safety

With outdoor living spaces becoming increasingly popular, more of us are investing in grills and even full outdoor kitchens. Gas and charcoal grills are ideal for creating delicious summertime meals at home, but they also increase the risk of thermal burns and home fires. For safe grilling, the grill should never be left unattended and should be placed well away from structures, including railings, fences and eaves. Children and pets should be kept at least three feet away from the grill area. Gas grill lids should always be open before lighting.

Heat and Sun Safety

Summer is all about enjoying the warm temperatures. However, on hot sunny days, it’s easy to get too much of a good thing. Overexposure to the sun can cause sunburns, as well as heat-related illness. To minimize any risk, practice proper sun protection. This includes using a sunscreen with SPF of 30 or higher, wearing a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses, staying in the shade during midday hours and avoiding small spaces, such as inside of a car, where hot temperatures can build up quickly and cause hyperthermia.

Food Safety

Food poisoning is more common during the summer months because food-borne bacteria grow quicker in hot weather. Extra care should be taken with food prepared and eaten outdoors. Use an insulated cooler filled with ice or frozen gel packs to keep foods, such as meat, summer salads and dairy products, at a safe temperature. Use separate cutting boards and utensils for raw meat and ready-to-eat items like bread, condiments and vegetables. Don’t let perishable food sit out for more than one hour in hot weather (above 90 degrees).

Insect Safety

Warm temperatures are also appealing to insects which can transmit illnesses, including West Nile virus, Lyme Disease, and encephalitis. To prevent insect bites and protect against illness, stay away from stagnant water and heavily wooded areas that can be breeding grounds for mosquitoes and ticks. Avoid perfumes and scented soaps that can attract some insects and use an insect repellent containing DEET which can help keep insects away.

Want to learn more about summer safety? At Katz Institute for Women’s Health, we’re here to answer your questions. Call the Katz Institute for Women’s Health Resource Center at 855-850-5494 to speak to a women’s health specialist.

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.