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Best tips for a safe summer

February 20, 2017


Best tips for a safe summer

Summertime and the living is ... hot. Sunburned. Itchy. Without taking some precautions while you're outside having fun, summer can end up being a real pain.

These tips will help you protect yourself and your loved ones to make this your most enjoyable summer yet.

Be skin-safe in the sun

Most people understand that getting a sunburn isn't good for them. "But many don't think about how today's sun damage or 'glow' could have repercussions several years from now," says Dr. Wayne Ledinh of WellSpan Plastic Surgery and Skin Care Center. "With each suntan and sunburn you get, you are increasing your risk for skin cancer."

Dr. Ledinh recommends that people of all ages take precautions by slathering on a thick coating of broadspectrum sunscreen with an SPF, or sun protection factor, of at least 30. He added that people should be vigilant about reapplying sunscreen, and seek additional ways to protect themselves from the sun's rays.

"Never assume that an SPF 30, or even a sunscreen with a higher SPF, will provide adequate protection for a day at the pool or an afternoon outside," says Dr. Ledinh. "You should reapply at least every two hours and after being in water, sweating or toweling off."

Other ways to protect yourself include seeking shade, especially during midday hours (10 a.m. to 4 p.m.), and wearing a wide-brimmed hat, sunglasses and clothing that minimizes the amount of skin exposed.

Keep bugs at bay

Summer's balmy evenings draw us outdoors, where we can quickly become a snack for insects.

Often, insect bites only leave behind an itchy bump or two that can be bothersome for a few days before disappearing. But it's important to try to limit bites because insects can carry vector-borne illnesses, including Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, Zika virus and West Nile virus.

"Using an EPA-registered insect repellent containing DEET is one way you can protect yourself from insect bites if you're going to be outside," says Director of Epidemiology and Infection Prevention at Summit Health, Ericka Kalp, Ph.D. In addition, avoiding the outdoors during peak biting times (dusk and dawn) can help reduce the odds you'll be bitten by a mosquito (or at least reduce the number of bites you get).

To avoid tick bites, Dr. Kalp encourages people who spend time in wooded or grassy areas to wear protective clothing, such as longsleeved shirts, long pants, hats and boots or closed-toe shoes. Tucking shirts into pants and pants into socks offers additional protection, as does applying the insecticide permethrin to clothing. "You should exercise caution after being in the woods or grassy areas," says Dr. Kalp, "and thoroughly inspect yourself for ticks afterward."

Keep your cool

While the average temperature here in July and August is 84 degrees, temperatures can soar into the high 90's on some days, and high humidity can make it feel even hotter.

"The heat of summer can affect anyone of any age," says Frank Mozdy, M.D., Vice President and Chief Medical Officer of Summit Health, "but certain segments of the population are at higher risk for developing serious complications, like heat stroke, more quickly." These groups include: the very young; people who are 65 or older; people who are physically ill; those with heart disease or high blood pressure, and people with a mental illness.

Dr. Mozdy advises that when heat indices are extreme or when heat waves set in, everyone should stay indoors in air conditioning when possible. "If you do go outside," he says, "avoid strenuous work or exercise, rest often and remember to replenish lost fluids. Don't wait to drink until you feel thirsty." If you can't avoid strenuous exercise in the heat, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends drinking two to four eight-ounce glasses of cool water each hour, unless your health-care provider recommends differently.

Following our guidelines in these three areas will help to ensure that your summertime living is not only easy, but comfortable, fun and safe.

Recognize heat exhaustion

When the body can't cool itself, heat exhaustion can set in. Unless steps are taken to lower the body's temperature, heat stroke--a medical emergency-- can develop. When temperatures soar, watch for these warning signs in yourself and others.

  • Skin that is moist and cool, despite the heat
  • Feeling faint or dizzy
  • Feeling tired
  • Heartbeat that is rapid, but weak
  • Muscle cramps
  • Nausea
  • Headache

If these symptoms occur, find shade or an air-conditioned place; rest or lie down; mist yourself with cool water; and drink water or sports drinks. If symptoms get worse or don't improve within an hour, seek immediate medical attention.