No more pencils, no more books! School is out which means it’s time to have fun in the sun over summer break. Summertime provides many opportunities to be outdoors, exercising in fun ways like swimming, bike riding, hiking, or simply playing. We love to see our patients enjoying their break, but there are some simple safety guidelines to keep in mind to ensure you can spend more time outside, and less time at the doctor’s office.
A small amount of sunshine is a healthy and natural way to increase your vitamin D, but there is too much of a good thing when it comes to the sun. It doesn’t take long to get a sunburn, which can lead to sun damaged skin and increase your chances of developing skin cancer. But you don’t need to stay indoors, just be sun smart. The Centers for Disease Control recommend staying out of the sun between the hours of 10 am and 4 pm, but if that’s not possible, use a broad spectrum sunscreen or wear sun protective clothing. Being in the water and on the sand can magnify the sun’s rays, so be mindful to use sunscreen everywhere your skin is exposed. Here are some quick rules for sun safety:
- Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen or sunblock.
- Wear a wide-brimmed hat to protect your face
- Wear sunglasses that protect from both UVA and UVB rays
- Drink plenty of non-alcoholic beverages
- Reapply every 90 minutes, or after being in the water.
Like catching fireflies, being bitten by mosquitoes seems like a summer rite of passage, but it doesn’t have to be. Ticks and mosquitoes can carry illnesses that can, in some cases, be dangerous to your health. To prevent mosquito and tick bites, wear a repellant or loose-fitting thick clothing to cover the skin, and avoid going outside at dusk and dawn when the insects are most active. While there are many natural types of repellant, such as citronella oil and non-chemical sprays, if you will be in heavily wooded areas, a repellant with DEET is best. At home use screens in windows and drain any standing water near the home so mosquitos can’t lay eggs in it. Additionally, we recommend routine skin checks for ticks after being outside.
If you find a bite that is irritated, lasts for many days, or develop a fever, make an appointment to be seen by a doctor.
“Swimming can be a fun way to relax and exercise, but it’s important to do so safely. I recommend swimming lessons for all children and adults. The BCYF Flaherty pool is just down the street from GRMDC and offers classes for all levels. Anyone who doesn’t know how to swim (including infants) should be supervised at all times when in or near the water, and appropriate floatation devices should be utilized,” said Dr. Hamrick, MD, Family Medicine, GRMDC.
It’s never too late to start! Swim lessons are great for all ages, not just young children. The American Red Cross recommends always swimming in areas supervised by lifeguards and swimming with a buddy. When in open water, young and inexperienced swimmers should wear U.S. Coast Guard approved life jackets (but should not be relied on as the only means of safety). And as always, avoid distractions when supervising children around water. Swimming is a fun summer activity, but one that should be taken seriously. By being aware, you can enjoy a fun summer in the sun and pool, lake or beach!
Summertime is the perfect time to get out and move and when you want to get somewhere fast, a bike, skateboard or scooter can help! Riding any of these provide exercise and fun. But every time you ride, you need to wear a helmet. Head trauma can be life altering, if not life threatening, but it can be prevented with helmets. It is important to wear a helmet that has met rules set by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSP). Some basics helmet rules include:
- Make sure your helmet fits properly.
- Wear your helmet the right way to ensure protection. It should cover your forehead and not tip back. Straps should always be fastened.
- Don’t wear a hat under a helmet.
- If your helmet is damaged, it will not work properly.
For more information on the importance of helmets and some guidance from the CDC, visit Heads Up, Helmet Safety.
Staying hydrated is important all the time, but during the summer, it is necessary! Proper hydration maintains a healthy body temperature, keeps your gut, kidneys and skin in tip top shape and can even help when you feel tired! According to Dr. Hamrick, “most healthy people can let thirst be their guide and drink calorie-free beverages freely, but if you’re physically active, ill (with fever, vomiting or diarrhea) or outside in the heat, you need to drink a bit more. Children and the elderly may need reminding to stay hydrated, and it’s wise for everyone to consumer more high-water content fruits and veggies in the summer.” These can include watermelon, cantaloupe, oranges, cucumbers and celery. Water is the best source of natural hydration, but for those with illness or the physically active, electrolyte drinks are a good replacement. It is recommended that you consume more low-calorie, or calorie free beverages, instead of sugary drinks and sodas.
We hope you have a safe and enjoyable summer!