Summer is the season of fun. Learn how to keep the good times rolling.
Whether your plans for the summer months include a long-awaited European vacation, or a well-deserved respite at the Jersey Shore, take a few moments to consider these safety tips. Summer, after all, goes so fast – no need to spoil a moment of it with a mishap that could have been avoided.
PLAYING IT SAFE IN THE SUN
Don’t Forget the Shades
One of the most common misconceptions about wearing sunglasses is that they’re just a fashion statement.
“Sunglasses with 100% UV protection are critically important to overall long-term eye health,” says ophthalmologist, Dr. Raymond Girgis. One of the leading reasons why eye protection is important is to slow the progression of cataracts—when the lenses in our eyes become hard and cloudy. An increase in UV exposure can also result in scar tissue formation—called pinguecula or pterygium (growths on the eye’s clear covering over the white part of your eye). Exposure may also play a role in macular degeneration, a disease affecting the center of the retina that causes a decrease in vision.
It’s also important to wear sunglasses consistently. “There’s a common misconception that you only need to wear sunglasses in the spring and summer months, but you should really be wearing them year-round,” says Dr. Girgis. “Any time you’re outdoors or in the car and it’s sunny outside, your sunglasses should be on.”
Heat, Humidity and Heatstroke
Summer heat requires a different “dress code.” Wear lightweight cotton and loose-fitting, light-colored clothes to help air circulate and allow your body to “breathe.” Clothes made with synthetic fabrics will also help keep you cool as they wick the moisture from your body. The early morning hours are the best time to exercise and work on your outdoor to-do list. The hottest time of the day is between noon and 4 p.m.
On hot and humid days replenishing your body’s fluids is a must to prevent dehydration or heat exhaustion. Spending too much time in the hot sun can be dangerous, especially for adults 65 and older. Heat-related illnesses, such as heatstroke, occur when the body is no longer able to stay cool. People 65 and up account for the most heat-related hospitalizations because they cannot adjust as well to sudden changes in temperature, making them especially vulnerable in hot temperatures.
Know warning signs of heatstroke. While it presents in younger adults as clammy hands or a dry mouth, symptoms in older adults include:
- Delayed or reduced sense of thirst
- Lack of perspiration
- Change in behavior
- Inability to concentrate
How to Pick the Right Sunscreen
However you enjoy your summer, it’s always important to protect your skin from the sun’s rays. First and foremost, always look for sunscreen that’s labeled “broad spectrum” or mentions that it protects against both UVA and UVB rays. UVB rays cause sunburn and increase our risk of skin cancer, while UVA rays mainly contribute to skin damage that ages us, like wrinkles and leathery texture.
The second thing to look for is the SPF level—this is how much longer it will take untanned skin to redden with the sunscreen than without it. For instance, when wearing SPF 30 sunscreen, it’ll take 30 times longer for your skin to burn than with no sunscreen at all. Values between 30 and 50 will offer adequate protection. You should be using a quarter teaspoon of sunscreen on your face and about an ounce—approximately one shot glass worth—for the rest of your body. If using spray-on sunscreen, apply two layers.
WATER AND BOATING SAFETY
Water Safety for Kids
In the “dog days of summer,” it’s refreshing to spend a day at the pool. But there can be consequences to fun, warm-weather activities if you don’t take proper safety precautions for you and your children.
“Drowning is one of the leading causes of death in children ages 1 to 4,” says Jinsy Jacob, MD, a pediatrician at Jefferson Health.
If you have a pool at home, putting up a fence around it is one of the most important steps you can take for your children’s safety. The fence should be at least four feet high, with no openings underneath or slots between that exceed four inches. It should also include a latching gate that stays closed at all times.
Whether at home or away, paying attention to your children around the pool is essential. Someone should always be assigned to watch children in the pool, especially at group gatherings and parties. Assign adults to 15-minute intervals of pool watch—a reasonable amount of time for them to not get distracted by their phone or other activities. And, it’s equally as important to pay attention to children at the beach. “Make sure you’re directly supervising children around the ocean because waves can be very unpredictable,” says Dr. Jacob. “It’s a good idea to look up the tides and currents to stay aware of what’s going on around you.”
Boating: Staying Safe on the Water
Life jackets are at the core of safe boating. While regulations on life jacket use vary from state to state, the Wear It program of the National Safe Boating Council promotes boating safety by encouraging boaters to wear life jackets any time they are on a boat, motorized or non-motorized.
- Make sure the jacket is a proper fit for your size and weight and that it is properly fastened.
- Hold your arms straight up over your head, ask a friend to grasp the tops of the arm openings and gently pull up; make sure there is no excess room above the openings and that the jacket does not ride up over your chin or face.
The National Safe Boating Council encourages following these boating safety tips to help minimize risks:
- Take a National Association of Boating Law Administrators safety course.
- Be familiar with the boating state laws know the “Rules of the Road”.
- When operating a motorized boat, know about carbon monoxide.
POUNDING THE PAVEMENT, AND THE SAND
Nearly 80% of playground injuries are caused by falls. Watch out for these potential hazards when taking kids to the playground, and report any hazards observed.
- Improper ground surfaces: Surfaces around playground equipment should have at least 12 inches of wood chips, mulch, sand or pea gravel, or mats made of safety-tested rubber or rubber-like materials.
- Overcrowded play areas. The area under and around play equipment should be a minimum of six feet in all directions while swing set areas should be twice the height of the suspending bar, both in back and in front of the swings.
- Unprotected elevated areas. Platforms higher than 30 inches should have guardrails or barriers.
- Head entrapment spaces.Openings between rails, bars, rungs and even ropes of cargo nets should be less than 3.5 inches or more than 9 inches.
- Sharp points and edges.Playground equipment should be free of protruding bolt ends, “S” hooks, and other sharp points and edges.
Running on the Beach Comes With Risks
Many people bring their workout regimen with them to the shore. It is commonly thought that the soft sand better cushions the lower extremity joints, making running on the beach even more beneficial. However, the beach surface changes drastically from extremely soft to hard, and oftentimes, slope dramatically as it approaches the water.
Keep the following preventive measures in mind to avoid injuries:
- Choose the most appropriate footwear. The ideal running shoes provide shock absorption, motion control and stability.
- Be careful to increase the duration and speed with which you run. Running “too much, too fast, too soon” is one of the hallmarks of training error and injury during the summer months.
- Be aware of your particular anatomic makeup. Some runners may have high foot arches, one leg shorter than the other, scoliosis (curvature of the spine), or excessive muscle tightness which may increase his/her susceptibility to injury during training.
- Stretch the involved muscles for at least three to five minutes before and after exercising.
- Respect the environment in which you run. Be aware of the temperature, altitude and terrain.
BIKE AND CAR SAFETY
Safely Enjoy the Bike Ride
Bicyclists face a host of hazards. They often must share the road with vehicles, and injuries can happen even on designated paths. With about 80 million bicyclists sharing the road with motorized vehicles, it is vital that bicyclists – and drivers – take some safety precautions.
Always inspect your bike prior to riding:
- The seat should be adjusted to the proper height and locked in place
- Make certain all parts are secure and working properly; check that the tires are inflated properly
- Make sure the bike is equipped with reflectors on the rear, front, pedals and spokes
- A horn or bell, a rear-view mirror and a bright headlight also are recommended
Helmets appropriate for bicycling should be worn by everyone – adults and children – on every bike ride regardless of length of the ride. Follow these guidelines from NHTSA to properly fit the helmet:
- Adjust sizing pads or fit ring until the helmet is snug.
- Position the helmet level on your head, covering the forehead and not tipped backward or forward; this will be about one to two finger widths above the eyebrow.
- Adjust the side straps so they form a “V” shape under and slightly in front of your ears; center the buckle on the chin strap under your chin.
- Buckle and tighten the chin strap until it is snug; no more than one to two fingers should be able to fit between the chin and strap.
- When fitted, the helmet should not rock more than one inch side to side or front to back on your head.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission advises that unless manufacturers recommend otherwise, you should get a new helmet every five to 10 years as the material inside the helmet begins to break down over time.
At any given daylight moment across America, approximately 660,000 drivers are using cell phones or electronic devices while driving, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Summer time means even more travel to get away spots, so when you’re behind the wheel– whether alone or with passengers – driving safely should always be your top concern. We’re more distracted than ever, so it’s crucial to know the basics of safe driving and practice them every time you’re on the road.
- Don’t allow children to fight or climb around in your car – they should be buckled in their seats at all times. Too much noise can easily distract you from focusing on the road.
- Avoid driving when you’re tired. Be aware that some medications cause drowsiness and make operating a vehicle very dangerous.
- Always use caution when changing lanes. Cutting in front of someone, changing lanes too fast or not using your signals may cause an accident or upset other drivers.
- Don’t be a hostile driver, road rage never accomplishes anything but potential disaster.
Food Handling and Grilling
As summer weather ramps up, you might be ready to head outside and fire up your grill for some awesome parties. Before you do, make sure you’re following proper grilling safety guidelines. Here is a list of the most important grilling safety tips for you to follow the next time you break out the charcoal:
- Clean your grill, but avoid using wire grill brushes. The small, sharp bristles can break off as you’re cleaning, get stuck to your grill’s cooking surface and may accidentally be ingested. Thousands have ended up in the ER as a result.
- Cook away from other objects
- Place your grill on stable ground
- Check for gas leaks; have a fire extinguisher on hand
- Stay by the grill; keep children and pets away
- Know how to safely start your grill and clean out any debris (spider webs ,etc.) that may be inside the area you use to ignite a gas grill
- Avoid loose clothing
- Shut down your grill correctly
When handling foods in the summer heat be sure to avoid these most common mistakes:
- Washing meats in the sink, they may leave germs in the sink and cross contaminate.
- Eating raw batter or dough, including cookie dough, and other foods with uncooked eggs/uncooked flour.
- Thawing or marinating food on the counter.
- Not cooking meat, chicken, turkey, seafood, or eggs thoroughly.
- Peeling fruits and vegetables without washing them first.
- Not washing your hands.
- Putting cooked meat back on a plate that held raw meat.
- Tasting or smelling food to see if it’s still good.
- Leaving food out too long before putting it in the fridge.
Mosquitoes and ticks have long been taking a bite out of warm-weather fun. Those bites can also carry with them the danger of Zika virus, West Nile virus, Lyme disease and more. Everyone can protect themselves and their families by following simple preventive measures:
- Use Environmental Protection Agency-registered insect repellant with DEET and wear long-sleeve shirts and long pants.
- Read product labels when using insect repellant and apply as directed.
- Do a head-to-toe-check for ticks and if you find one, learn how to properly remove it.
- Do not leave doors or windows propped open.
- Once a week, scrub or empty planters, birdbaths, vases and flowerpot saucers; mosquitoes lay their eggs in standing water.
- Use EPA-approved indoor and outdoor flying insect spray or foggers.
- Turn on air conditioning; mosquitoes prefer warm, damp and dark spaces.
Leave Fireworks to the Experts
Summer is synonymous with barbecues, parades and fireworks. The National Safety Council advises everyone to enjoy fireworks at public displays conducted by professionals, and not to use any fireworks at home. If you choose to use them, be sure to follow these safety tips:
- Never allow young children to handle fireworks; older children should use them only under close adult supervision.
- Never use fireworks while impaired by drugs or alcohol.
- Anyone using fireworks or standing nearby should wear protective eyewear.
- Never hold lighted fireworks in your hands; never light them indoors.
- Only use them away from people, houses and flammable material.
- Never point or throw fireworks at another person.
- Only light one device at a time and maintain a safe distance after lighting; never ignite devices in a container.
- Do not try to re-light or handle malfunctioning fireworks.
- Soak both spent and unused fireworks in water for a few hours before discarding; keep a bucket of water nearby to fully extinguish fireworks that don’t go off or in case of fire.
- Never use illegal fireworks.
[Main photo credit: iStock.com/RyanJLane]