9 Summer Safety Tips

The recipe for summer fun looks a little something like this: 1/3 preparation, 1/3 spontaneity and 1/3 awesome people to share it all.

If only staying safe this summer were that simple. Between sunburns and the waves of nausea that erupt during long car trips, parts of summer can feel like one big hot, itchy, queasy roller-coaster ride.

Of course, that’s no excuse to stay indoors, hunkered down with the air conditioner on full blast.

Read on for 9 tips to make this summer memorable for all the good times, not the summer bummers that bring trips to the emergency room:

Tip #1: Know what drowning actually looks like.

Drowning is the fifth-leading cause of unintentional injury death in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Twenty percent of those drowning deaths involve children.

It doesn’t look like the movies. In most cases, people who are drowning won’t be able to call out. Their body might not flop up and down and their mouth might bob above the surface. From a distance, they might appear to be safely treading water. But if they can’t answer questions or if their eyes seem glassy or unfocused, they actually might be drowning.

Inflatable baby pools, bathtubs and even deep buckets that a child could fall into also can be dangerous. Stay within an arm’s reach of a child who can’t swim.

Same goes for adults with disabilities and the elderly.  The pool or the lake can be very inviting on a hot day and many older adults who were competent swimmers in their younger days may no longer have the same strength or stamina they once had.  Be vigilant around water.

Tip #2: You can actually fall off a bike.

Helmets aren’t just for kids on bikes. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, bicycle helmets are 85 percent effective in reducing brain injuries. Unfortunately, only about 20 to 25 percent of all cyclists wear them.

Fit is important. Never wear another hat under a bike helmet. It should be worn level and also cover the forehead. Think of the helmet like bangs – you don’t want your forehead showing. Straps should always be fastened and snug enough so the helmet doesn’t move when you do.

Tip #3: Don’t leave kids or pets inside a car, even for just a few minutes.

Each summer, about 36 kids across the country die from heat-related deaths after being left inside a hot car. Children are more sensitive to heat than adults, which means it doesn’t take long for them to feel the effects of heat exhaustion. The effect is amplified in a car, which acts like a greenhouse, trapping sunlight and heat inside.

Even on a mild, 80-degree day, a child’s body temperature can reach as high as 106 degrees Fahrenheit in half an hour if left inside a car. Children’s bodies can lose the ability to cool themselves at these temperatures, leading to dehydration, heat stroke, seizures and even death.

Again, let’s not forget about our disabled and elderly family and friends.  Although an adult can generally tolerate the heat in a car longer than a child, this may not be true for adults with disabilities or the elderly.  In addition, different medications may cause an adult to become dehydrated more quickly or succumb to the heat more quickly.  The short answer is: Don’t leave anyone or any pets in the car for any amount of time.

Tip #4: Skip the greasy spoon on the long car ride.

For all those kids out there who complain about a long car ride next to an annoying sibling, know there’s something worse out there – a long car ride next to an annoying sibling suffering from car sickness.

Car sickness is a type of motion sickness that occurs when the brain receives conflicting information from the ears, eyes and nerves, all of which help the body perceive motion. This information mix-up can result in an upset stomach, cold sweat, fatigue, dizziness or vomiting.

For reasons doctors aren’t sure, children ages 2 to 12 are particularly susceptible. If that’s the case for your brood, avoid spicy, greasy or heavy foods before setting out on a long car trip. Encourage them to look at things outside the car – looking at the horizon can help – and keep them from reading or staring at a screen for too long, which can aggravate motion sickness.

Tip #5: Don’t drink the pool water.

It’s not the kind of thing people want to think about when cannonballing into the water, but swallowing pool water contaminated with fecal matter can make you sick. It’s not that most people are chugging pool water, but some of us inadvertently gulp some while diving in or making our way to the bottom of the slide.

Chlorine in swimming pools kills most of the germs that make people sick, but some germs take longer to kill, even with chemicals. So, if you’ve had a bout of diarrhea, skip a trip to the pool for everyone’s sake.

Tip #6: Keep drinking – but not alcohol.

Fluids, fluids and more fluids – they are the secret weapon to making it through a hot day outdoors, especially out here in the desert. Avoid sugar-sweetened and highly caffeinated beverages and alcohol because they cause the body to release fluids, adding to dehydration.

Some people are more prone to dehydration, including those older than 65, infants and children younger than 4, and people taking diuretics, blood pressure and heart rate medication. They might release fluids more rapidly. And don’t ignore the warning signs of dehydration – a dry, sticky mouth, lethargy, headaches, muscle cramps and dizziness.

If you plan any hikes, long bike rides or other extended outdoor activities, be sure to consider the altitude (hiking the La Luz trail anyone?), the time of day, and the duration of the event and take more fluids than you think you will need.  Better to have more than you need than not enough.

Tip #7 Bees like your new perfume just as much as you do.

Well, at least you know you smell good. But if a bee has mistaken you for a nearby flower, ice is probably your best bet. A credit card or another blunt-edged object can be used to scrape the stinger out if it’s still lodged in the skin. If the skin gets itchy, try some calamine lotion or check with your doctor to see if an antihistamine might be appropriate.

Bee stings typically hurt for a bit, but if you’ve been stung and notice your face, tongue or throat is swelling, if you’re having trouble breathing or if you feel dizzy or faint, you might be having an allergic reaction. Seek immediate medical help.

Tip #8: Cute shoes are not worth the blister.

Hear the wails of wounded fashionistas, but it’s true. Those new sandals might look divine, but they feel downright hellish in the spot where a bulging blister has formed.

It’s hard to resist, but avoid the temptation to pop it. The fluid-filled sac actually protects the skin healing under the blister. Poking the blister to drain it actually can introduce dirt or infection, making the blister worse.

Instead, keep the blister clean and dry. Cover it with a bandage after it pops – on its own – to prevent infection, but take it off after the swelling goes down to allow the area to heal.

Tip #9: You shouldn’t bake in the sun, and neither should your mayo.

Follow this simple advice for avoiding food-borne illness: Make sure hot food stays hot (above 140 degrees Fahrenheit) and cold food stays cold (below 40 degrees Fahrenheit). When eating outside, use coolers or submerge foods in ice to keep them cold. When precooking food for the grill, don’t stick it back in the refrigerator. Once you get to your event, heat the food immediately.

But if you’ve gambled and lost on that potato salad, know that most episodes of food-borne illness last between 12 and 24 hours. If symptoms get worse or dehydration becomes a problem, seek out emergency care. In those instances, it’s a good idea to report a case of suspected food poisoning.

Special thanks to Kelly Bothum, The News Journal, for the inspiration.