The calendar will read “Summer” on June 21st, but the summertime temperatures can arrive before that date. For many people, this is not a pleasant time of year, but for some, it is the perfect time of year. That familiar feeling of freedom during the summer may come back, just as it did when school was out all summer in our childhoods. It’s easy to be carefree, but, just as in the wintertime, there are precautions to be taken to remain safe in extreme weather.
For many, this time of year is a gift, and for others, it is a challenge. Some of us love the heat, others despise it. Some people love the in between during spring and fall. No matter where your preferences lie, summer safety must be addressed.
There are the basics that need to be kept in mind:
- Drink plenty of water. Half of your body weight in ounces daily is a good measure, more if you are perspiring heavily.
- Wear broad spectrum sunscreen. Be sure to check the expiration dates, the potency of the SPF will decrease after that date. You may not be protected, and a sunburn can be the end result. Reapply often.
- Complete outdoor chores early in the morning or later in the evening.
- Make sure pets are given plenty of fresh water.
- Weather warnings are to be heeded. Too many people take them casually, and pay a heavy price. Take shelter when advised by authorities. Stay indoors if lightening is close.
- Be smart when you swim. Know your limits, and those of the people with you.
- Alcohol and sun don’t always mix. The effects may increase, which may very likely decrease judgment and safety. DO NOT drive a boat of you are drinking. Of course, the same rules apply for driving a vehicle on land.
- Use insect repellent. Wear long sleeved-clothing in wooded areas, as well as long pants. Check for ticks and other insects on your skin. Use mosquito netting if possible when enjoying the outdoors.
- If you are not already certified, consider taking a CPR course. You may be someone’s hero at any time of the year. Contact your local Red Cross, or county health department for information on certification.
Perhaps one of the most dangerous threats of spending time outdoors is heatstroke. It is a very real thing, and should be taken seriously. If you, or someone you are with outdoors develops any of the following symptoms, it is important to receive immediate medical help. Call 911 if necessary.
- High body temperature over 104 degrees.
- Nausea and/or vomiting
- Altered mental status, including slurred speech, confusion, agitation/irritability. Seizures and a coma can also be a result.
- Skin may be hot and dry, with no sweating noted. Skin may also be flushed.
- Rapid heart rate and breathing. Breathing may be shallow.
- Throbbing headache.
While you are waiting for emergency medical help, be sure to:
- Get yourself or the person suffering into shade or indoors.
- Remove any excess clothing.
- Use whatever means of cooling with water is available: cool tub or shower, sponge bath, use of ice packs or cold, wet towels on head, neck, armpits and groin.
If you have had a heatstroke in the past, you are more likely to have a decreased tolerance for hot temperatures in the future. This is important to keep in mind in subsequent summers.
The most important thing to remember about heatstroke is this: NEVER LEAVE AN INFANT OR CHILD IN THE CAR. NOT EVEN FOR A MOMENT.
There was a recent report of a child’s death from this tragedy on the news. It is one of the most preventable and the most heartbreaking of all heatstroke possibilities. Next to vehicle crashes, heatstroke is the number one vehicle-related killer of children in the U.S. Public awareness is obviously helping decrease this tragedy, as the numbers have continued to go down: In 2018 there were 54 deaths, in 2019 there were 53. With aggressive awareness campaigns, this number went down to 25 in 2020, and 21 in 2021. Until it reaches zero, the awareness needs to be increased.
- Make sure to keep your car locked when you’re not inside it so that kids don’t get in on their own and lock themselves in.
- If you are traveling with your child in a car seat in the back, create a reminder: place your cell phone or purse next to their seat. Place one of their possessions close to you in the front seat.
- Call 911 if you see a child alone in a car. Do not hesitate to do so. They are trained and ready to help.
Have a happy summer, with safety first.