Ahh, summer. It is upon us once again. No matter how old we become, most of us still carry around that feeling of freedom; at least a little bit of the notion that our worries are a bit lighter, and that, perhaps, we are invincible, just like we were when we were kids out of school for the summer.
As we age, however, we realize, through time and experience, that perhaps none of us are invincible like we once thought we were. This awareness, when used in our favor, can help us prevent injuries, illness and accidents—and hopefully a trip to the doctor or ER.
We have likely heard most of this advice before, but it all bears repeating. Some tips below, however, may spark new awareness that you may not have had before. If one accident, injury, or—in the worse case scenario—death can be averted, then any repetition will have been worth it.
Perhaps, like I did while researching, you may learn something new that may come in handy sooner or later.
Preventing sunburn is a priority for most people. Most of us know, but again, hearing it one more time doesn’t hurt:
- The strongest sun rays are bearing down between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Avoid these times, if possible.
- Use a broad spectrum sunscreen, one that protects against UVA and UVB rays. The higher the number, the better. Reapply every few hours.
- Sunscreens really do expire. Just ask anyone who has used a bottle of sunscreen that was too far outdated.
- The most severe cases of sunburn may cause an extremely uncomfortable condition known as Hell’s Itch. Also known as Fire itch or Devil’s ant itch, it has been described as if fire ants are biting at the affected skin. During the healing process, the itch is deep and throbbing, and may keep a person awake at night, persisting for days as it heals.
Swimming in pools, lakes and at the beach always carry a drowning risk. Know your abilities, and respect them. If you are in charge of small children, know their limitations.
- Always wear life jackets while boating.
- If you are driving the boat, remember that drinking alcohol while driving a boat carries risk just as drinking while driving a vehicle.
- Water sports such as skiing and tubing require the use of lifejackets. If you are engaging in these sports, drinking alcohol greatly increases the risk of injury.
- If you own a pool and you have small children, or are hosting small children at a party, double and triple-check to make sure the area is secured to prevent small children from wandering into the pool area unattended. Four children die daily in the United States as a result of drowning.
Those “invincible” teenagers may pose greater injury/accident risk during the summer:
- Teenage employment may create unfamiliar situations for the working teen, thus increasing the risk of injuries. Talk to your teenager about this risk, and if the employment setting does not educate their employees on safety as some independent places of employment may not, discuss this with your teen, and with the employer, if possible. Farming accidents are a prime example.
- If they are at home while you, the parent, are at work, they may cook more meals for themselves. Kitchen safety with appliances is an issue to cover as well.
- The teens who stay out at night are at increased risk for personal safety issues, especially females. As much as they may roll their eyes at you, make sure they are aware of their surroundings, and hold them accountable to curfews.
Spending more time outdoors in the summer carries some unique risks as compared to months with cooler temperatures:
- Playgrounds are utilized more in the warmer months. Check for safety with swings and other moving equipment. Make sure the material under the equipment is designed to cushion falls. Metal equipment—especially slides—heats up exponentially during the summer, thus increasing the risk of burns.
- Insects such as ticks and mosquitoes are prevalent in the warmth. Checking for ticks after being outdoors is recommended. Better yet, if you are headed to a wooded area, wear a lightweight shirt with long sleeves and socks that are tucked in to the pants. Wearing light colors also lets you visually spot the ticks earlier.
- Mosquitoes are attracted to some fragranced body products, including lotions, cosmetics and hairspray. They like to attack bodies that like to eat refined sugar, but tend to stay away from bodies that eat a lot of garlic.
- Heat stroke is very real, and more common that you may know. Overdoing it in the sun while not staying hydrated can bring this on. Outdoor workers and those who engage in sports practice or exercise in the heat are especially at risk. Remaining hydrated by taking frequent drinks BEFORE you feel the thirst is important. Drinking drinks with electrolytes such as Gatorade is recommended along with water. For many people, their tolerance to the sun and heat is diminished after a heat stroke. Older adults who may lack sufficient air conditioning in their homes are at increased risk as well. Infants and small children, as well as the older adult may have less ability and awareness to protect themselves from the risk, so be aware of their safety if they are in your care.
- Outdoor barbecues and picnics are common, as are potato salads, and other dishes that are typically made with mayonnaise. If you are taking a dish to an outdoor party, substitute a dressing without mayonnaise.
Travelers on the roadways increase in the summertime. Stay smart about it:
- Before embarking on a long trip, make sure the vehicle has been properly maintained.
- NEVER leave kids or pets in the car alone, even for a moment.
- Carry a first-aid kit in the car.
- Texting while driving, of course, multiplies the risk exponentially—just like drinking alcohol while driving.
- Bedbugs are very real, and they really do bite. It is no joke. If you are staying in a hotel, check the beds before you settle in. They like to hide in crevices, so lift up the sheet and check along the seams of the mattress. They only come out at night, so they are good at hiding. They like to ride along, so be sure not to take any home with you. Place your bags in the bathtub while you check.
- Buckle up. Your chances of survival are 9/10 with seatbelts, and, conversely, 1/10 without. I prefer the better odds. You wouldn’t be reading this article if I hadn’t buckled up in 1988.
None of us are invincible–not the teenagers, not the adults. Stay safe and healthy in the sun during your summer adventures.
HAPPY SUMMER TO YOU