Off-the-Job Safety: How to Make Summer Safe

Summer brings not only sun and fun, but also some health risks. An expert from Baylor Medical Center offers the following tips to enjoy these long summer days safely.

Save Your Skin

According to the American Cancer Society, nearly 60,000 new cases of melanoma were diagnosed in the United States in 2007. “You can’t keep people from going out in the sun, but you can be smart about it,” said Jason Medina, M.D., a family practice physician on the medical staff at Baylor Medical Center at Garland.

Here are some strategies for protecting yourself:

  • Avoid direct sun exposure between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
  • Wear protective clothing, such as long-sleeved shirts and long pants.
  • Wear a wide-brimmed hat that shades your face, neck and ears. “Protecting the scalp is especially important for people with fair or thinning hair,” Medina said.
  • Seek shade whenever possible.
  • Apply SPF 30, UVA/UVB sunscreen about 15 to 30 minutes before going into the water. Reapply regularly, especially after swimming, perspiring heavily or drying off with a towel.

Keep Your Cool

To help prevent heat-related illness, drink plenty of fluids. “Sports drinks or plain water are best; try to avoid spending all day drinking alcohol or caffeinated drinks, since they increase dehydration,” Medina explained. In addition, avoid strenuous activity during the hottest parts of the day. When high temperatures combine with high humidity, be on the lookout for signs of heat exhaustion, including:

  • Heavy sweating;
  • Muscle cramps;
  • Paleness, weakness, rapid heartbeat; and
  • Headache, nausea, fainting.

“Your body can no longer control its internal temperature, and that can be dangerous,” said Medina. If you are experiencing symptoms, move to a shady or air-conditioned area and drink plenty of fluids. If symptoms don’t subside within about 30 minutes, seek medical help.”

Watch Your Step

Finally, avoid trips the emergency room with these tips:

  • Wear helmets and proper safety gear when biking, skating or rock climbing.
  • Supervise children around any form of water, and learn CPR.
  • Leave snakes alone, even if they appear not to be alive. If a bite should occur, call 9-1-1. If you can, snap a quick photo of the snake on your cell phone.
  • Prevent mosquito- and tick-borne diseases such as West Nile virus by avoiding outdoor activities between dusk and dawn and wearing long sleeves and pants.
  • When grilling, use separate plates and utensils for raw and cooked meat. Wash your hands before preparing and eating food.
  • Leave the fireworks to the professionals.

For more information about Baylor Medical Center at Garland, visit http://www.baylorhealth.com.

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