The arrival of Memorial Day means summer is right around the corner. Along with making plans for activities and vacations, families should take steps to prevent injuries and accidents and ensure a safe and healthy summer.
“Everyone loves to be outdoors during summer, with their barbeques, swim parties, sporting events and beach activities. Now’s the time to remember some key points to prevent injury, sickness and accidents,” said Dr. Wally Ghurabi, medical director of the Nethercutt Emergency Center at UCLA Medical Center, Santa Monica.
“We hope the following tips help ensure a fun, yet safe summer for everyone.”
Beat the Heat
Overexertion in hot weather can cause heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Avoid the hottest part of the day by following these guidelines:
• Participate in outdoor activities early in the morning or late in the afternoon, if possible.
• Wear lightweight, light-colored fabrics that reflect the sun.
• Stay hydrated by drinking 6 to 8 glasses of water daily, even if you don’t feel thirsty.
• Be vigilant. Temperatures in buildings without air conditioning can rise quickly and endanger health in a short amount of time. Children, older adults and those with chronic illnesses are especially vulnerable. Never leave a child or pet alone in a car, even for a moment.
• Don’t forget to protect your skin! Use sunscreen with a SPF of 15 or higher and reapply every two hours or whenever you leave the water. Long-term sun exposure can damage your skin and increase your skin-cancer risk.
• Wear hats and sunglasses for further protection.
“You never know what’s going to happen on a sports field or a camping trip, so make sure you are prepared with first-aid kits at home and when traveling,” Dr. Ghurabi says.
He prefers kits containing band-aids, calamine lotion, ace bandages, anti-bacterial wipes or ointment and pain relievers, as well as bug spray.
Spray skin with insect repellant and, if using with sunscreen, apply the insect repellant first.
Repellents that contain DEET work best, but should be used in moderation, especially on very young children.
“Bug spray should be used sparingly, once or twice a day, depending on your location and activity,” Dr. Ghurabi advises.
He adds that another way to minimize bug bites – and possible skin irritation and infections – is to wear clothing that covers your arms and legs.
Maintain Food Safety
The risk of food poisoning is greater in the summer.
More meals are eaten outside away from the kitchen where safeguards preventing food spoilage are in place, and bacteria multiply faster in the heat.
When enjoying picnics and outdoor barbeques, keep cold food cold.
Food that sits out for more than two hours is not considered safe and, if the outside temperature is above 90°F, the window is reduced to just one hour.
Keep meat and poultry in a cooler packed with ice until ready for use and store the cooler in the shade.
Pack beverages in one cooler and perishable food in another as the cooler with beverages will be opened throughout the day.
And most important, wash your hands before food preparation and serving.
Splash With Care
Not surprising to parents, swimming is the most popular summer recreational activity. You cannot be too careful around water. Teach children to swim and always supervise young children around water. Be within a young child’s reach at all times.
“A drowning can happen quickly and without warning, so avoid distractions like talking on the phone or reading,” Dr. Ghurabi cautions. “Pool covers are vitally important for homes with young children.”
At the beach, pay attention to posted warnings and swim with a buddy and within view of a lifeguard. If boating, make sure to use life jackets and a secure flotation device, instead of an air-filled water toy.
Wear Protective Gear
Avoid serious head and other injuries by making sure you and your family wear helmets and other protective gear when biking, rollerblading or skateboarding.
“Before the summer starts, double-check that bikes, helmets, skates and hiking boots still fit whoever will be using them,” says Dr. Ghurabi. “You’ll be surprised by how often children have outgrown items from last season.”
UCLA Health has for more than half a century provided the best in health care and the latest in medical technology and research to the people of Los Angeles and the world. UCLA Health is among the most comprehensive and advanced health systems in the world, comprising Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center; UCLA Medical Center, Santa Monica; the Resnick Neuropsychiatric Hospital at UCLA; Mattel Children’s Hospital UCLA; and the UCLA Medical Group, with its wide-reaching system of primary care and specialty care offices throughout the region. For more information, visit www.uclahealth.org.