Fun In The Sun: Summer Safety Tips

Fun+In+The+Sun%3A+Summer+Safety+Tips

Nina Kini, Public Health Editor/Contributing Writer, Placentia CA

Fun In The Sun: Summer Safety Tips

After a long year of distance learning and social gathering restrictions, many families are more eager than ever to pull on their bathing suits and bust out the grill for some summertime relaxation. But before we head out to the beach or park, it’s important to review some helpful summer safety tips to help ensure everyone steers clear of the classic summer health hazards. 

Sun Burns

According to the Office of Surgeon General, more than one in three Americans report getting some sort of sunburn every year[1]. The symptoms vary from person to person, but they usually include peeling red skin, dehydration, and fatigue. While most Americans don’t usually view sunburns as a serious risk to their health, the Skin Cancer Foundation actually reports that getting five or more sunburns in your lifetime can more than double your risk of developing a melanoma- the deadliest kind of skin cancer[2]. The good news is that melanomas are largely preventable because the primary cause of all varieties of skin cancer is overexposure to ultraviolet light. 

In the event that you find yourself with a nasty sunburn, it’s critical to act quickly. Do not stay exposed in the sun. Instead, move to a shaded area and drink water to increase your hydration. The skin serves as an important buffer between the body and the outside world, and one of its key functions is making sure that only small amounts of water evaporate from the surface of the body at any one time. This helps to keep you hydrated. As the skin gets damaged in sunburn cases, patients can easily and quickly become dehydrated. Therefore, it is important to stay as hydrated as possible after staying out in the sun for too long. 

Once you’re at home, immediately take a cool shower to calm the skin. If the burn is bad, it might be a good idea to lather on some soothing lotion with hydrating ingredients like aloe vera. Try to avoid any lotions with irritating fragrances or alcohol. People suffering from a sunburn might be tempted to pick or peel at the damaged skin, but this only furthers discomfort and increases the healing time. To help the skin stay calm, try to wear cotton clothes and avoid scratchy material.  

The best way to avoid all the discomfort of getting a sunburn is to prevent yourself from getting one in the first place. To reduce the chances of developing a sunburn, stick to some basic rules of thumb. Stay indoors or in shaded areas between the hours of 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. in the afternoon. While tank tops and swimsuits are a popular staple during the summer months, try to stick to longer and looser protective clothing with a wide-brimmed hat when you’re outside. Apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30, and reapply it every two hours during the day. 

Choking 

Kids and adults alike enjoy the opportunity to gobble up a good hot dog or hamburger straight from the grill before they jump into the pool. However, eating food too quickly is a sure-fire recipe for choking. According to the National Safety Council, choking killed more than 5000 people in 2019[3]. Children under the age of four are especially at risk because of their smaller mouth size and messy eating habits. 

It can be easy to identify someone choking by looking to see if they are gasping, coughing, or reeling. If someone you know is choking and coughing forcefully, encourage them to continue. The forceful coughing can dislodge food. If they continue to cough and gasp for more than 15 seconds, or if the person choking is a small child, call 911 immediately. While help is arriving, begin the Heimlich maneuver. To start, bend the victim over at their waist, and give them five firm blows between the shoulder blades with the heel of your hand. These blows should be hard and firm- basically, you’re trying to use the vibration created by the blows to loosen whatever is stuck in the windpipe. After several blows to the shoulder blades, switch over to abdominal thrusts. Move behind the victim and place one foot between their feet. Take a fisted hand, and place it over the victim’s belly button. Cover up your fist with your other hand and pull in hard using an in and up J-motion. Usually, the Heimlich maneuver is enough to get the object to pop out of the victim’s mouth. If the victim loses consciousness while performing the maneuver, stop and begin CPR immediately[4]. For victims under the age of two, it is important to periodically check their mouth to see if the object has come out since they might not be strong enough to spit it out immediately. 

To prevent choking in children, try to keep small and round objects like marbles and pennies away from young kids. The number one food for choking in children under the age of three is hotdogs, so make sure to slice them up lengthwise and then into bites when feeding to small kids. Additionally, it’s a good idea to never let a child eat alone or run during mealtime. This can increase the chances of choking or choking going unnoticed. Even adults should make sure that they consume their food slowly and avoid gobbling up snacks like nuts or popcorn by the fistful.

Beestings

Beestings can be extremely painful and especially prevalent in the summer months when bees tend to circle around trash cans or public water taps. The good news is, they are usually not very dangerous. It is estimated that 0.4 to 0.8% of children and 3% of adults are very allergic to bee stings, in which case they may need to seek immediate medical attention in the event of a bee sting[5]. For the rest of the cases, they can usually be treated at home. 

As soon as you or someone near you is stung, be sure to remove the stinger from the wound. The stinger of the bee is what injects venom into your bloodstream, causing the well-known bee sting pain. To remove the stinger, scrape it out with the fingernail or credit card. If it’s more deeply lodged in, it may be more useful to use a pair of tweezers. Then, begin icing the sting area to reduce swelling.

Usually, the pain and swelling reduce within an hour or two of the initial sting. If swelling continues or gets more red and puffy, doctors recommend taking ibuprofen- an anti-inflammatory. As with sunburns and sun exposure, the best way to prevent the pain of a bee sting is to avoid getting one in the first place. To start with, do not swat at bees. Trying to slap or shoo away a bee usually only makes it more agitated. Additionally, bees tend to be attracted to more bright colors of clothing. To reduce your chances of attracting a bee, wear light-colored clothes and stay at least two feet away from flowering plants and open garbage bins. During picnic time, keep serving dishes covered. Bees can hide inside the cans of sugary drinks like coke or sprite once you open them, so make an effort to stick to cups or closed bottles. 

Drowning

Whether it’s heading to the neighborhood pool or diving into the waves at the beach, swimming is one of the most alluring parts of summer for many families. Nevertheless, drowning is the second leading cause of death in the US for kids age four and under[6]. Even strong swimmers can be victims of drowning. With very young children or elderly people, it’s important to be aware of any unfenced water bodies near your home. A fenced water body, such as a public swimming pool, is one that is covered and locked on all four sides by a relatively tall fence. Unfenced water bodies include local streams, creeks, oceans, and even kiddie pools. The water body does not necessarily have to be very deep – small children can drown in just a few inches of water.

While at the beach, it is important to be wary of riptides. Generally, they are extremely strong shifting currents that maintain the appearance of a calm wave (the reason why so many people often get pulled up in them). The best way to dodge riptides is to stick to a designated safe zone, preferably with a lifeguard. If you happen to get stuck inside of a riptide, try to stay calm. Swim either to the left or right, parallel to the shore. Trying to swim towards the shore will mean that you’re fighting directly against the riptide’s current, and therefore making it much harder for yourself to stay afloat. Eventually, the riptide will either spit you out, or you will reach the limit of its pull. 

It is commonly known that young children who have had some amount of swim lessons are much less likely to drown than the same-age kids who don’t have any experience swimming. Even for adults, taking swimming lessons later on in life can help reduce your chances of death by drowning. If you see someone drowning near you, call 911 and immediately try to pull them from the water. In real life, drowning is quick and quiet. Victims can’t usually splash about like is commonly seen in movies. Drowning victims often have a head that’s tilted back and sinking, a mouth that’s open at water level, glassy or closed eyes, and a visible struggle to tread water or stay afloat.

Poison Ivy

During camping trips or local park hikes, it can be easy to accidentally brush up against some poison ivy. The plant now grows in every state in America, with the exception of Alaska and Hawaii. It is most prevalent in the East and Midwest. After coming in contact with poison ivy, it takes about 20 minutes before the plant’s irritating sap begins to cause a visible reaction in your skin[7]. Try to quickly wash any exposed skin with soap and cool water. If you’re on the move, say on a hike with family, use bottled water to wash the exposed skin. After coming home, wear rubber gloves and keep any exposed clothes in the washer. Clean them with hot water to remove any traces of the allergens. Try to go back and wipe down thoroughly any and all surfaces that you might have touched. Common surfaces include phones, doorknobs, and steering wheels.

When a rash appears, apply a cool compress, corticosteroid cream (like hydrocortisone), or calamine lotion[8]. If discomfort continues, you can also try to take an oral antihistamine. If the rash spreads to over ten percent of the body, the face, mouth, neck, or genitals- head over to the ER immediately. The best way to avoid Poison Ivy rashes is to learn how to identify the plants. There are multiple varieties of the plant, including Poison oak which inhabits the West Coast, Poison Sumac which thrives in the Northeast, and Poison Ivy, which lives in the Midwest. Poison ivy leaves and stock look vaguely humanoid- leaf head, stem neck, two leaf arms atop a stem body. Poison sumac had larger leaves with 7 to 13 leaflets. Upon finding any of the varieties in your backyard, wear gloves, dig the plants out from the roots, and throw them away. 

 

Sources: 

  1. www.hhs.gov/surgeongeneral/index.html.
  2. www.skincancer.org/.
  3. www.nsc.org/
  4. www.nhs.uk/common-health-questions/accidents-first-aid-and-treatments/what-should-i-do-if-someone-is-choking/.
  5. www.webmd.com/allergies/news/20040811/children-bee-stings
  6. www.cdc.gov/drowning/facts/index.html
  7. www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/poison-ivy/symptoms-causes/syc-20376485.
  8. www.aad.org/public/everyday-care/itchy-skin/poison-ivy/treat-rash.