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Summer Safety 101

In New England we get to experience the beauty of all four seasons- fall, winter, spring and last but not least—summer—arguably the most favored of the bunch. Whether it is a gathering at the beach, hosting a poolside barbeque or packing up for a family trip, it is important to keep safety in mind. The esteemed doctors on staff at Sturdy Memorial Hospital have compiled a few tips to help you remain safe and healthy during the summer months so you can focus on the enjoying them.

Save Your Skin
While sun protection should be a yearlong effort, the strength of the summer sun requires greater commitment to sun protection. A broad-spectrum sunscreen with a skin protectant factor (SPF) of at least 30 should be applied, every two hours and more frequently after swimming and/or sweating. A combination of using sunscreen, shade, hats and sunglasses is the best bet in preventing exposure. “While many think that the glow of a suntan exudes health, a tan is actually damage to the skin that can increase the risk of skin cancer,” says Olympia Kovich, MD. “Those with fair skin, light hair or eye color, family history of skin cancer, chronic sun exposure or a history of sunburns are at higher risk and should take extra precaution. Additionally, those on medications may have heightened sensitivity to the sun and should consult with their doctor before heading outdoors.”

Outdoor Adventures
Brian Patel, MD, Chief of Emergency Services and his staff see many preventable injuries during the summer months. Simple reminders such as ensuring your tetanus immunization is up to date can prevent an unnecessary trip to the emergency room. “At a time when people are outside barefoot and planting in the garden, splinters and small cuts can allow bacteria that live in soil to get into the system,” says Dr. Patel. “When tackling yard work be sure to remove stones, toys and any other objects before mowing the lawn, this will prevent injuries caused by flying objects. Always wear protective gear when trimming hedges, cutting wood or any other do-it-yourself project, a simple oversight can result in the need for stitches.”

The summer heat, while enjoyable can also put individuals at risk for heat related illness, especially when we near the 90-degree mark and have high humidity. Excessive heat can cause heat exhaustion, heat stroke, heat cramps and heat rash. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) identifies heat stroke as the most severe heat related illness, as the body can no longer control its temperature and continues to rise without being able to cool down. Warning signs include an extremely high temperature; red, hot and dry skin; rapid, strong pulse; dizziness; nausea; confusion and unconsciousness. “If someone shows any of these signs, emergency medical assistance should be sought out as soon as possible. While waiting for emergency personnel get the person to a shaded area and cool them down by any means possible, such as using a hose or cold compresses.” says Dr. Patel. “As the days get hotter, it is important to remember to drink plenty of fluids and engage in outdoor activities wisely.”

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The Summer Travel Bug
“When traveling, regardless of whether by boat, train, plane or car—keep your medical insurance card along with your medications and any important health or allergy information with you,” says Christopher Quinn, MD, Director of Occupational Health Service and board certified in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. Plan accordingly when you set out for hiking or camping trips. Stay on designated trails and keep track of landmarks to prevent from getting lost in the woods. It is best to hike with someone, but if you opt to go alone, make sure to tell someone where you are heading and when you expect to be back. Always dress accordingly and bring plenty of water to stay hydrated. Know what poisonous plants look like and refrain from touching poison ivy, oak and sumac. Should you come in contact with poisonous plants, wash the skin with rubbing alcohol or with soap and plenty of water. “Use cold compresses and hydrocortisone cream to help with itching. An antihistamine can be used to reduce the itching as well. If the rash becomes severe or if it is on the face or genitals, seek medical attention by your primary care physician. In the case of a severe allergic reaction including difficulty breathing or swallowing, call 911 or go to the emergency room,” says Dr. Patel.

Al Fresco Dining
Outdoor dining becomes commonplace in the summer months. “When picnicking, make sure that perishable foods are not kept out longer than four hours. Any longer, the risk for bacteria growth and food poisoning increases,” says Kathy Blackledge, RDN Nutrition Clinical Coordinator. Grills must be used properly to reduce the risk of fires and burns. Always keep children and pets away from the grill and remove grease build up from trays after each use to reduce the chance of it catching fire. If using a propane grill, turn off the tank immediately if you smell gas. If the leak stops, get the grill serviced before using it again, if it does not, call the fire department immediately.

Fire pits and campfires have become summer time staples for many in recent years. As these have open flames, it is extremely important to use caution and be prepared for the unexpected. Never leave a fire unattended and always have water available to put out the flames. Children should never be allowed near any open flame, this includes roasting marshmallows. If a minor burn occurs, hold the burn under cool water for 10 to 15 minutes or cool it with a cold compress. Using gauze to wrap loosely around the burn helps to protect the skin. If the burn is painful, an over the counter pain reliever can be used. If large blisters develop, seek care from your primary care physician. If the burn appears to affect many layers of skin and possibly muscle and bone, seek emergency treatment or call 911 immediately for assistance.

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Water, Water Everywhere
Between pools, lakes, rivers and oceans the bodies of water available to cool off in are plentiful, which means the dangers of swimming are just as rampant. The CDC reports an average of 3,536 fatal unintentional drownings annually in the United States, equating to about 10 deaths per day making water safety paramount in prevention. For those that own pools, make sure the pool is fenced in and protected by a safety gate that prevents children from entering alone. Do not consume alcohol when swimming or supervising swimmers. Take caution when diving and be aware of rip tides and water currents when in open bodies of water. If partaking in boating, the National Safe Boating Council recommends to BE SAFE, Know Your…Boat, Equipment, Safety devices and personal floatation devices, Alcohol limits, First aid and emergency procedures, Environment…BEFORE YOU GO! Drowning happens quickly and is often silent. In an effort to be proactive, enroll yourself and your family in swim lessons to learn basic swimming skills and consider becoming CPR and First Aid Certified.

For more information on summer safety tips visit the CDC’s
website here.

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Summer Safety 101
Summer Safety 101