Summer is here! School is out, the temperatures are warming up rapidly and people are ready to get out and about as COVID-19 cases continue to decline. Here’s your guide to keeping your family safe and healthy as you make the most of this summer.
While COVID-19 is definitely on the decline, the virus is still here and the pandemic is not yet over. The best thing we can all do to protect ourselves from COVID-19 is to get vaccinated as soon as possible. “The COVID-19 vaccines are safe and remarkably effective,” says Dr. Craig Dearden, an internal medicine physician. “To protect yourself and to be able to enjoy your summer, get your vaccine as soon as possible if you have not already.” See last month’s article for more about the vaccines.
Watch the Heat
Pandemic or no pandemic, you can always count on North Texas to be hot in the summer months. Just because we may be used to the heat doesn’t mean we should ever take the summer heat for granted – it can be dangerous when people do not take proper precautions.
Heat exhaustion occurs when a person loses too much water and salt from their bodies, leading to symptoms such as fatigue, weakness, nausea, heavy sweating and shallow breathing. If you experience symptoms such as these, get to a cool area (preferably inside) and drink plenty of water. Applying a cool cloth or taking a cool bath can also aid recovery from heat exhaustion.
“The most important thing you can do to avoid heat exhaustion is to stay hydrated, especially if you are outdoors for any length of time,” says Dr. Carlos Bahrami, a nephrologist. “Also, avoid foods that have a lot of salt and eat more fruits and vegetables.”
Even more dangerous than heat exhaustion is heat stroke. Heat stroke occurs when the body gets extremely overheated and is unable to regulate its internal temperature. A person suffering from heat stroke can quickly reach a temperature of up to 106 degrees Fahrenheit. Symptoms of heat stroke include hallucinations, chills and dry, hot skin. If you think someone may be suffering from heat stroke, call 911 immediately and get the person to a cool area and soak them in cool water.
Drinking plenty of water, along with wearing loose-fitting and light-colored clothing (light colors reflect sunlight, whereas dark colors absorb it) are two of the most important things you can do to avoid heat-related illnesses in the summer. And be mindful of how long you’ve been outdoors; don’t overdo it with physical activity and stay in the shade whenever possible.
Take Care of Your Skin
The heat isn’t the only reason to stay in the shade. The sun’s ultraviolet rays can cause sunburn almost immediately, causing skin to redden and become painful and itchy. More problematic, sustained sun exposure can damage the skin’s cells over the long term and lead to cancer of the skin, which is the most common type of cancer among women and men in the United States.
There are two types of UV rays – UVA and UVB. UVA rays penetrate the skin and are responsible for premature aging signs, such as wrinkles and spots. UVB rays primarily affect the surface of the skin, causing sunburn. Anyone who spends time in the sun is susceptible to skin cancer, but that’s especially true of fair-skinned people.
The most essential step in protecting your skin from this damage is the use of a broad spectrum sunscreen with an SPF 30 or higher that protects against both UVA and UVB rays.
SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor. The higher the SPF, the more protection the sunscreen provides, but an SPF of 60 is not twice as protective as an SPF of 30.
Sunscreen should be reapplied every two hours or after getting out of the water. If you have some sunscreen left over from last summer, check the expiration date before you use it. If it’s expired, it is less effective, so you should throw it away and buy new sunscreen. It is OK to use insect repellent and sunscreen at the same time.
Finally, wear a hat with a brim that will shade your face, ears and neck and use sunglasses that provide UV protection.
Stay Safe in the Pool & On the Lake
According to the CDC, three children die each day as a result of drowning. Next to birth defects, drowning is the leading cause of death for children ages 1-4.
Teaching children to be strong swimmers is crucial to keeping them safe in the water. However, even if your child is adept at swimming, parents must never let their guard down around the water. Children need to be watched closely at all times in or near any body of water, be it a backyard pool, lake, river or ocean.
“When young children are in the water, it is absolutely essential that there be an adult watching them continuously,” says Dr. Helen Ong, a pediatrician. “In the time it takes to answer a phone call or read a text message, a child can go underwater and drown. Stay close by the pool and keep your eyes on children at all times.”
For people who have pools at home, installing a safety fence is highly recommended to prevent young children from getting in the water unsupervised.
Many people take advantage of the numerous, beautiful lakes in North Texas by getting out on a boat during the summer. Just remember, alcohol and water do not mix. According to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, alcohol plays a role in one-half of all boating accidents. Furthermore, the same rules that apply to driving also apply to boating in Texas: if you have a blood alcohol level of 0.08 or higher, you can be charged with boating while intoxicated.
Lifejackets are also a must in a boat. Texas law requires that every boat has one life jacket for each person on board and that all children under the age of 13 wear a life jacket at all times (in boats less than 26 feet long).
Avoid Injuries – and the ER
Stay out of the emergency room this summer by leaving the fireworks to the professionals. “There are a lot of great fireworks shows across North Texas on and around Independence Day – take the family to one of them and resist any urge you may have to buy your own fireworks,” says Dr. Eric Wroten, an orthopedic hand surgeon. “Handling fireworks is a good way to lose a body part or burn down your house.”
Summertime often means a fair amount of time working in the yard. Take some basic precautions in the yard to avoid a preventable injury:
- With all power equipment, carefully read and follow all of the manufacturer’s safety guidelines.
- When using a lawnmower or other power equipment, wear close-toed shoes and long pants to prevent projectiles from causing lacerations on your legs and feet.
- If you are using a string trimmer or edger, wear eye protection, such as sunglasses or goggles, to protect your eyes from projectiles.
- With any power equipment, ear protection is also a good idea.
Have a Great Summer
Whether you’re traveling or spending the summer at home, by taking a few precautions to protect yourself and your family, you’ll better be able to keep everyone safe and healthy all summer long. By reducing your risk of preventable illness and injury, you’ll be able to focus on having a good time with your family and making some new memories.
This article contains information sourced from: