Tips for a safe, healthy summer


Special to the NNPA from the St. Louis American

Nothing says summer like flip-flops, bathing suits, ice-cream cones and concerts in the park. After Spring Break, kids along with teachers and administrators start the countdown to summer vacation. In contrast, parents are stressed out trying to figure out what they will do with those kids for 10-11 weeks and they are secretly wishing school was in session year round.

However, the merriment of the long-awaited warm weather cannot lessen the importance of summer safety. Having a less rigid schedule should not be synonymous with emergency room and urgent care visits. Injuries and illnesses are not uncommon during this time of year and can definitely transform what was planned as a tranquil experience to a disaster. So, to launch summer into the right direction, here are some simple tips to follow.

Tip #1: Everyone needs sunscreen— No matter your complexion or ethnicity, your skin can be damaged by those intense rays from the sun especially between the hours of 10 a.m. – 3 p.m. Ideally, skin should be protected with a hat, clothing and sunscreen with an SPF of 30. Furthermore, per the American Academy of Dermatologists, the sunscreen should be broad-spectrum and waterproof. Repeated episodes of sun damage will increase the likelihood of developing skin cancer in the future.

Tip #2: Respect the water— About one in five drowning victims is younger than age 14. Per the CDC, 80 percent of the people who die from drowning are male. Children between the ages of one and four are more likely to die in a home pool. The fatal drowning rates of African American children between the ages of five and 14 are almost three times that of whites.

It is imperative that children be supervised around bodies of water and follow general safety guidelines such as not running on the slippery surfaces next to the pool, obeying the directions of the lifeguards and wearing life vests when appropriate. One of the main factors involved in drowning injuries is lack of swimming ability. Participation in formal swimming lessons can decrease the risk of drowning in children ages one and four.

Tip #3: Listen to your body— After surviving a brutal winter, it is understandable that when summer arrives being outdoors as much as possible is a major priority. But, excessive heat can cause a variety of heat-related illnesses such as heat rashes, heat exhaustion, heat cramps and heat strokes. The body normally controls internal temperatures by sweating however during excessive heat, this mechanism is insufficient and body temperatures can reach dangerously high levels. Seniors, children, and people who are ill or overweight are most at risk. Feeling clammy, dizzy, or nauseated are all symptoms of being overheated and should alert you to seek shade, rehydrate with cool water-not ice water, and elevate feet.

Heat strokes occur when temperatures reach 104 or higher either by excessive exercise or inappropriately treated heat exhaustion. Internal temperatures that reach such levels can cause multiple organ damage and is an extremely dangerous condition. On average, over 600 people die each year in the United States from heat related illness, which is more than tornadoes, hurricanes, floods and lightning combined.

Tip #4: Obey the rules— Although highway deaths have declined about 25 percent since 2004, the National Highway Safety Administration reported 32,719 deaths in 2013 from crashes. On the other hand injuries caused by distracted drivers, increased by one percent. During that same time, about a third of the people between the ages of 21-34 involved in a fatal crash had blood alcohol levels above the legal limit. Furthermore, a large percentage of the pediatric fatalities were unrestrained occupants.

Speed limits are recommended for your safety. Wet roads, curves, and construction are all hazards that not only endanger you but the surrounding drivers as well.

Reducing your speed during those road conditions will enable you to more effectively handle your vehicle. In addition, medications, fatigue, and illicit substances like marijuana can delay your reaction time and contribute to driver errors.

Therefore, the bottom line about summer is that it should be a time of fellowship, friendship and fun! Let’s make summer 2015 one of the best vacation times ever!

Denise Hooks-Anderson, M.D. is an Assistant Professor at SLUCare Family Medicine.