Keeping Safety Top of Mind This Summer

Column by Dr. Todd Wisser
Special to Colorado Community Media
Posted 7/20/21

Summer is upon us, and people are heading outside to enjoy the warmer weather, especially now that approximately 140 million have been fully vaccinated in the United States and are eagerly looking …

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Keeping Safety Top of Mind This Summer

Posted

Summer is upon us, and people are heading outside to enjoy the warmer weather, especially now that approximately 140 million have been fully vaccinated in the United States and are eagerly looking forward to reconnecting with friends and family.

Unfortunately, higher temperatures and outdoor activities bring additional health challenges and people of all ages — and especially adults aged 65 or older — risk dehydration, overexposure to sun, risk of drowning and other potential seasonal dangers.

Here are some general summer safety tips to keep in mind as we head into summer:

Staying hydrated in the heat

Take measures to remain hydrated during the hot summer months. Increase your fluid intake regardless of activity and don’t wait until you are thirsty to drink. A general rule of thumb is to drink enough non-alcoholic fluids each hour to maintain normal color and output of urine. Heavy sweating depletes your body of salt and minerals, however, do not take salt tablets unless directed by your doctor.

Protecting your skin from the sun

Most types of skin cancer are caused by too much exposure to ultraviolet rays that can damage your skin cells. It’s important to remember that UV rays can also reach you on cloudy days and tend to be the strongest from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Daylight Saving Time. They can also reflect off sand, water, snow and other surfaces.

The UV forecast is a good way to prepare yourself for how strong UV rays will be in your area. If the UV index is three or higher in your area, you should take steps to protect your skin from the sun.

Some of the ways to protect your skin from the sun include:

· Staying in the shade. Stay under an umbrella, tree or other shady shelter. Even though you are in the shade, your best bet to protect your skin in the sun is to wear sunscreen or protective clothing when you are outside.

· Wearing protective clothing and/or a hat and sunglasses. When possible, wear long-sleeved shirts, pants and skirts that can provide protection from UV rays. Clothes made from tightly woven fabric provide the best protection. Wearing a hat that has a wide brim all the way around and can shade your face, ears, and the back of your neck offers the most protection. A tightly woven fabric, such as canvas works the best to provide shade from UV rays. Finally, sunglasses can protect your eyes from UV rays as well as the tender skin around the eyes.

· Applying sunscreen: Applying a thick layer of broad-spectrum sunscreen that blocks both UVA and UVB rays is important before you go outside or expose your skin in the sun. The Food and Drug Administration does not recommend sunscreen for babies who are six months or younger. It is recommended to use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with at least 15 SPF or higher. Make sure to check your sunscreen’s expiration date as shelf life diminishes when sunscreen containers have been exposed to hot temperatures. Make sure to reapply your sunscreen every two hours if you are staying out in the sun and after sweating, swimming or toweling off.

It’s also important for older adults to protect their skin from the sun. Studies have shown that less than half of older adults protect their skin from the sun when outside for an hour or more on a warm, sunny day.

Staying safe in the water

According to the World Health Organization, drowning is the third leading cause of unintentional injury death worldwide, accounting for 7%of all injury-related deaths.

Some of the most important ways to prevent water injuries or accidents include:

· Learn swimming skills, whether it be you or your children, taking formal swimming lessons can reduce your risk of drowning.

· Wear a life jacket when you are on a boat, paddle board, jet ski, water ski or any other water-based activity. Pool toys that are filled with air or foam, such as noodles or inner tubes, should not be used in lieu of a life jacket as they are not designed to keep swimmers safe.

· Practice and learn CPR. When performed by bystanders during an accident, CPR has been shown to save lives and improve outcomes in drowning victims. The sooner CPR is started, the better chance of improved outcomes.

· Have a mobile phone on hand to call for help in case of an emergency.

· Use a buddy system and supervise when in or around water. Swimming with a friend, or having a responsible adult watch young children are great ways to supervise water activity and reduce the risk of drowning. It’s important to find water sites that have a lifeguard present when possible.

· Avoid drinking alcohol before swimming, boating or engaging in other water activities and do not consume alcohol while supervising children.

· Be aware of and adhere to posted signage on warnings and beach closures due to dangerous conditions.

· Prepare for weather. Strong winds and thunderstorms can be very dangerous when in or around water. Always prepare by knowing local weather conditions and forecasts before boating or swimming. If you are outside, watch for dangerous waves, or signs of rip currents by looking for choppy, foamy waves. Free yourself of a current and swim toward shore.

Taking the necessary precautions to stay safe this summer will not only help protect you and your family but allow for some well-deserved R&R.

Dr. Todd Wisser of Evergreen is an internal medicine physician with New West Physicians in Evergreen.

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