Health Matters: Summer and Sun Safety

DehydrationBring on the succulent strawberries and the juicy watermelon – it’s time to celebrate summertime. But with every fresh taste and splash fight in the pool comes a few safety considerations as well.

Avera enjoys the celebration of this hot and happy season, but today I’m hoping to share some insights from our health care experts, tips on avoiding some of the “summer bummers” that can come when we’re on the way to the lake, off to see the country on vacation or just relaxing with some grilled asparagus and salmon on the backyard grill.

Here’s the healthiest summer ever!

Enjoy those rays safely: When the clouds part and we have the chance, there’s nothing better than a day out in the sun. But remember to always use sunscreen that offers at least a 15 sun protection factor or SPF. Use a higher SPF if you’re susceptible to sunburns and for younger children. Hats, sunglasses and long sleeves can all help to reduce the chances of a burn. Repeated burns and overexposure can increase the risk of skin cancer – so protect your family and yourself. Don’t forget the sun’s rays are always strongest from 10 a.m. – 3 p.m.

Bugs: Bees, mosquitoes, wasps and ticks all love the season as much as we do, so a few easy steps can keep you and these critters safely separate. Wear shoes when walking in the grass, wear repellent whenever you’re going outdoors and leave the perfume and scented lotion on the shelf until this fall. Those scents attract stinging insects, who also love your soda cans. Use bottles with caps or clear bottles to avoid an unwelcome surprise. Ticks are nasty parasites. Wearing shoes and socks, long pants, and repellent, as well as and careful removal (and plenty of soap and water to clean the bite) are steps that can reduce their threat to you and yours. Make sure you “tick check” everyone every time you hike, walk or ride through wooded areas where they thrive. Seek medical help if a tick bite results in an unusual rash, similar to a bulls-eye.

Hot enough for you? Drink plenty of water all summer long to avoid any headaches or dizziness that indicate dehydration. Plan those big yard projects for morning or evening to avoid the hottest parts of the day. Keep drinking water, not just when you feel thirsty. Dehydration is the first step toward more serious heat issues like exhaustion – that’s when your body cannot sweat enough to cool you down – or heat stroke, which is an emergency situation! If you or someone you’re with has hot, red skin and seems dry – get them cooled off and call for help. The best way to avoid any heat issues is simple: drink more water, then drink some more.

Avoid injuries: Caution and common sense are the rules when enjoying the outdoors. Make sure kids keep their distance from hot grills and outdoor fire rings. Remember that fireworks cause numerous eye injuries and skin burns every year. A safer option is to watch the public displays from a safe distance. Keep a close eye on children around swimming pools, lakes, ponds, etc. If you’re boating, everyone in the boat, including adults, should wear a life jacket. If bicycling, wear your helmet.

Summer’s among my favorite seasons – and it’s a beloved time of year for all of us who make it through winter’s challenges. So make your summer safe, smart and successful just by following a few of these simple reminders. Then go out there and have a blast!

By Dr. Tad Jacobs

Chief Medical Officer of Avera Medical Group at Avera Health