Summer Safety Tips for the Whole Family
By: Dr. T. Jann Caison-Sorey, associate medical director at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan
There are many health benefits associated with being outdoors and enjoying summertime activities. However, the season does pose its own set of risks for injury, so it’s essential that families are well-prepared. Taking preventive action can help ensure everyone enjoys a safe, happy and healthy summer.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, drowning is the second leading cause of unintentional injury-related death among children under the age of 15. During water-related activities, adults should stay in close-proximity and regularly check on little ones. Although pool rules seem simple, it’s also important to reinforce the basics, like walking along wet pool decks, to avoid slips and injuries. Adults should be especially vigilant with toddlers and young children. While boating, remember the state requirements for life jackets, avoid alcohol intake and always remain alert.
Properly-fitted helmets can reduce the risk of serious head injury by almost 45 percent; however, reports show only half of children ages 14 and under wear one. It is important for the bicycle helmet to meet safety standards of the consumer product safety commission. Having conversations as a family about safety, or even rewarding a child for wearing a helmet, can help avoid resistance. Regularly check seats, chains, handlebars and breaks for loose or broken parts. Low air pressure in tires, especially after a long winter, is also a common safety hazard. Riding your bike alone or at night can pose a different set of challenges. Lastly, sticking to well-lit bike trails, riding with a companion and wearing bright colors or reflectors is recommended.
Summer often brings an increase in bug bites and bee stings. Avoid these annoyances by limiting skin exposure with breathable pants or sleeves, especially in wooded or grassy areas. Insect repellent is also an effective means of deterring bites. To keep bees and wasps away, avoid wearing bright colors or heavy perfumes and put away open food after a picnic or outdoor meal. If someone does get bitten, wash the area with soap and warm water, apply ice or consider over-the-counter ointments to reduce swelling and itching. Seek emergency care or call 911 if there is a life-threatening allergic reaction to certain insect/bug bites.
Hot cars have proven to be a life-threatening environment for young children and pets. In fact, children’s bodies heat up three to five times faster than adults and 54 percent of all deaths related to vehicular heatstroke since 1998 were a result of children being left in a hot car. To keep little ones safe, make a habit of checking the back seat before getting out of any car, educate children on what to do if they are left alone in a vehicle and don’t be afraid to speak up or contact an emergency responder if you see a child unattended.
Throughout the month of July, approximately 230 people visit the emergency room daily with firework-related injuries. Those planning to arrange their own light show this summer should take precaution and adhere to local laws and regulations. Fireworks should always be aimed in the opposite direction of guests, houses and trees. Spectators should stay at least 25 meters away and those lighting fireworks should follow safety instructions and precautions and quickly step back a minimum of five to eight feet. Remember, drinking alcohol while attempting to operate fireworks is a dangerous scenario that puts everyone at risk of injury.
Skin cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in the United States and one of the most preventable. When choosing a broad-spectrum sunscreen, opt for at least SPF 30 or higher. It’s important to keep in mind sunscreen wears off and must be reapplied at least every two hours, especially after swimming, sweating or toweling off. Children and adults should avoid direct sun exposure for long periods of time, especially during the peak hours of 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Clothing like hats and sunglasses are an important barrier to protect skin from harmful overexposure. If plans include being outside during peak sun, check the UV index to prepare accordingly.
Dr. T. Jann Caison-Sorey, is an associate medical director at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. For more health tips, visit AHealthierMichigan.org.