The sun is shining, the kids are home from school, and the mood is high. You know what this means — it's finally summer.
Summer is a long-awaited season for many. It's full of festive outdoor activities like cookouts, trips to the beach or local pool, and vacations. This special time of year is packed with fun, energy, and, hopefully, a little downtime.
While there's a lot to love about summer, there are also some extra concerns when it comes to your health. From sun and heat exposure to water and firework safety, there are some additional steps you'll need to take to ensure you and your family stay healthy and happy.
Here are 4 summer safety tips to keep in mind this season.
1. Protect yourself from the sun.
You may have waited all winter and spring to finally feel the warmth of the sun on your skin. But before you rush outside unprotected, make sure you and your family are shielded from damaging UV rays.
According to Sharese Tucker, DO, Family Medicine Physician at Main Line Health, "Sun safety is critical year-round, but especially during the summer months when the sun's UV rays tend to be at their strongest. UV rays can damage your skin cells and lead to skin cancer as well as early signs of aging."
Keep in mind – this applies to people of color, too. Unfortunately, when people with black or brown skin develop skin cancer, it's often in the late stages when it's diagnosed.
Roughly 1 in 5 Americans will be diagnosed with skin cancer by the time they turn 70 years old.
Protect yourself from harmful sun rays by:
- Staying in the shade
- Wearing clothing that covers your skin and a hat with a brim all the way around
- Using sunglasses to protect your eyes
- Applying sunscreen that blocks both UVA and UVB rays and is SPF 15 or higher before going outdoors. Be sure to reapply every 2 hours, and after sweating or swimming.
2. Be mindful of heatstroke.
The sun isn't just a potential danger to your skin — it can also be a problem for your overall body. While the warmth of the sun may be a welcome change from the cold winter, getting too hot can be dangerous and lead to a condition called heatstroke.
"Heatstroke is when your body temperature rises quickly, making it difficult to control its own temperature through things like sweating. It most often occurs after long periods of time in the sun. It can also happen after using extra energy when it's particularly warm out, such as running outside on a hot day," explains Dr. Tucker.
This summer, take steps to prevent heatstroke, such as wearing sunscreen, staying hydrated, and finding shade throughout the day. This will help keep you and your family safe on those hot, summer days.
It's also important to watch out for signs of heatstroke, including:
- An elevated body temperature (above 103°F)
- Hot, dry, or red skin (without sweating)
- Nausea, dizziness, and a throbbing headache
- Loss of consciousness
If you or someone you know shows signs of heatstroke, call 9-1-1 right away. While waiting for emergency personnel to arrive, move the person to a shady area, and do your best to cool them off using cold water or a fan.
3. Stay safe near bodies of water.
Pools, lakes, oceans — if you're like most people, you're searching for any body of water to cool off in this summer. While spending time in the water can be a great way to stay active and have fun, it can also be a source of danger if not taken seriously.
Drowning is the number one cause of injury-related death in children between 1 and 4 years old. And while children are most at risk, anyone can drown.
To keep you and your family safe near the water this summer, practice these water safety tips:
- Monitor children closely when they are in or near water. This means no reading or checking your phone when you're in charge of supervision. Keep in mind — young children can drown in depths of as little as one inch of water.
- Enroll your child (and anyone in your family who can't swim well) in swimming lessons.
- Wear a life jacket during water activities, such as boating.
- Brush up on your CPR skills with a local or online class.
4. Use fireworks carefully.
While the entire summer season might feel like a 3-month holiday, there's one summer holiday in particular that embodies this season perfectly — the Fourth of July.
The Fourth of July (and the weeks surrounding the holiday) often means cookouts, family fun, and, of course, fireworks. While these shimmering displays are fun and exciting, they can also be dangerous if you don't take the right precautions. In fact, in 2018, over 9,000 people ended up in the emergency room for a fireworks-related injury.
The safest way to view fireworks on the Fourth of July is to attend a local show. However, if you decide to use legal fireworks at home, keep these safety tips in mind:
- Don't let children light, play with, or handle fireworks.
- Use protective eyewear when lighting fireworks.
- Keep a hose nearby to put out embers or flames.
- Don't try to re-light a firework if it has ignited partially or improperly.
- Before throwing fireworks away, completely soak the remains in water for several hours.
Stay safe, but have fun!
As you plan your pool outings, barbecues, and picnics this summer, take the time to ensure you're keeping everyone safe and healthy. Plan ahead, and be prepared for the extra challenges the season might throw at you.
At the same time, make sure to take it all in — the extra time with your loved ones, the beautiful weather, and the uplifted mood. After all, summer does only come once a year.