Everyone looks forward to summer vacations, family get-togethers, outdoor recreation, swimming, picnics, and trips to the beach. The fun stops, though, if a friend or family member becomes sick or injured. Many summertime mishaps can be easily avoided if you take the right precautions and know what to watch for.
Heat exhaustion affects people of all ages. Wear a hat to protect your head from the sun. Stay in the shade whenever possible. Do activities like jogging, gardening, or mowing the lawn in the morning or evening when it is cooler. Children or adults engaged in sports or active play should drink plenty of water and take frequent breaks. If anyone exhibits signs of heat exhaustion, such as headaches, dizziness, fatigue, or sudden nausea, have them stop all activity and rest in a cool place.
Cold fruit juice, soda, and beer seem appealing during hot weather, but the sugar, caffeine, and alcohol they contain contribute to dehydration. Water is the best thirst quencher and does not contain all those extra calories.
Water sports and alcohol are not compatible. Do not water ski, or drive a boat or a jet ski, after consuming alcohol.
Accidental drowning is the leading cause of death for children four years old and younger in Florida, second only to congenital birth defects. For every drowning death, another five victims are treated in the emergency room, and some suffer permanent brain damage. Most of these accidents occur in family pools. If young children are present, secure access to your pool area with sensors and automatic door locks. Make sure an older sibling never inadvertently leaves a door open.
Follow these tips to keep your family safe:
Never allow children to swim anywhere alone or unsupervised, even for a few minutes. Always watch. Keep lifesaving equipment such as a long pole and a life preserver in the pool area, and teach everyone in the family what to do if someone is drowning. Enforce pool safety rules and insist that your children’s guests follow them too. During parties and family get-togethers, designate a responsible adult other than the host to monitor children and the pool area at all times. Many accidents happen when the normal family routine is disrupted and parents are distracted. Teach your children to swim. Keep floating toys away from non-swimmers.
Sunburn can be painful and debilitating, and causes permanent skin damage that can lead to skin cancer later in life. Use sunscreen whenever you will be exposed to the sun for more than ten minutes. Slather it on generously. Follow the instructions on the label; some sunscreens need to be re-applied every 30 minutes or are washed off by water or sweat. Remember that sunscreens are not as effective after their expiry dates.
Heat rash occurs when sweat ducts become blocked, particularly in small babies whose sweat ducts are not yet fully developed. Keep affected areas cool and dry, take frequent baths or showers, and avoid applying creams and oils. Wear loose, comfortable clothing that allows sweat to evaporate freely.
Mosquito bites not only cause uncomfortable itching; in recent years there has been a resurgence of diseases like West Nile virus, St. Louis encephalitis, and dengue fever transmitted by certain types of mosquitoes. If you are outdoors at dusk, when mosquitoes are most active, or in a wooded or wetland area, protect yourself with insect repellent containing DEET.
Apply an over-the-counter itching cream for quick relief of discomfort from insect bites. It is important to treat insect bites on children quickly because scratching with dirty fingernails introduces bacteria which can cause skin infections.
Fire ants are common in Florida lawns. Their bites often raise small blisters on tender skin, and the pain and itching lasts for several days. Treat the discomfort with itching cream and ice packs, and avoid breaking the skin.
Yellow jackets and wasps build their nests in shrubs, on porches and, under lawn furniture during the summer. Keep an eye out for hovering wasps, and spray nests in areas where children play. The burning pain from a bee or wasp sting is caused by an acid which can be neutralized by immediately rubbing household ammonia or a paste of baking soda and water over the area. If the bee has left its stinger behind, tug it out gently with tweezers, trying not to squeeze the attached sac. Apply ice to reduce swelling. Some people have severe allergic reactions to bee stings. Anyone who experiences swelling of the face and throat, difficulty breathing, dizziness, or nausea after being stung by a bee needs urgent medical attention.
Lyme disease, spread by deer ticks, has been reported in all 50 states. Shower immediately after working or hiking in a wooded or brushy area, to remove ticks. Inspect your body for ticks that might have attached themselves to your skin. One symptom of Lyme disease is a circular rash around the tick bite. Cover your clothes and exposed skin with insect repellent when you are in tick-infested areas.
Protect yourself and your family from the perils of summer fun by planning ahead and taking a few simple precautions. Have a healthy, happy summer!