Richard: Stay safe & have fun this summer
Published 12:00 am Saturday, July 9, 2022
The heat index and humidity push beyond 90 most days. Tropical disturbances
pop up in weather forecasts. It’s summer, and it’s Louisiana. It’s time to have fun during summer holidays and vacations but with a bit of caution to stay safe in the heat and sun.
Heat, or sun stroke, is among the most serious heat-related illnesses. It occurs when body temperatures rise quickly, sweating mechanisms fail, and the body cannot cool down. If this happens, seek emergency treatment immediately.
Signs of dehydration that can lead to heat stroke include:
- Decreased urination
- Mild headache
- Dry skin
Here are ways for staying safe in the sun and lessening heat-related risks:
- Stay hydrated; follow the 8X8 rule—eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day
- Avoid strenuous outdoor activity during peak heat, 11 a.m.–4 p.m.
- Drink sports drinks with electrolytes instead of soft drinks or alcohol to cool down
- Use portable or hand-held fans if outside in high temperatures
- People with asthma or other breathing conditions should avoid being outside for extended periods; they should also wear masks if mowing lawns or gardening to filter out pollutants.
Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the U.S., with 1-in-5 Americans developing skin cancer in their lifetime. Wearing reflective clothing, hats, caps and sunglasses, as well as using sunscreen can reduce skin cancer risks and slow effects of aging.
Many chemicals used in some sunscreens have proven harmful to both humans and the environment. Here are some sunscreen tips:
- Avoid sunscreens with oxybenzone, which can cause allergic reactions and affect the hormonal system
- Choose mineral-based sunscreens with zinc oxide or titanium dioxide
- Avoid sprays, which can be harmful if inhaled and are difficult to apply evenly
- Choose products with SPF of 30 or higher and are broad-spectrum, which protects from UVA and UVB rays
- Apply liberally and often; adults need about an ounce to fully cover the body; reapply every two hours and after swimming
- Don’t forget easy-to-miss spots—neck, back, ears, face and tops of feet
- Keep infants 6 months and younger out of the sun; sunscreen should not be used on their skin
See a dermatologist or primary care physician for routine skin checks. Scan your entire body at home every one to three months for changes in shape, color and size of moles.
Summer heat can drive cooks out of the kitchen and to the grill. However, food-borne illnesses increase during the summer, because bacteria grows faster in hot, humid conditions. To prevent food poisoning, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommends:
- Washing your hands and cooking surfaces often
- Using a food thermometer to ensure meats are fully cooked
- Separating raw meats from other foods when cooking and prepping to avoid cross contamination
- Refrigerating perishable foods as soon as everyone has been served
If your summer plans include water activities, follow basic safety tips:
- Never allow children to be alone near any water source, even the family pool
- Build a barrier around home pools and keep life-saving devices nearby
- Wear life jackets when boating, canoeing or kayaking
- Know beach flag systems and heed warnings, particularly of rip currents
- Don’t swim alone or while under the influence of alcohol or medications
- Stay out of the water during thunder or lightning
- Don’t dive headfirst into unfamiliar or shallow bodies of water
- Learn first aid and cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR)
After two years of lockdowns and restrictions, travel stateside and abroad has rebounded. When planning vacations, check regulations in areas where you are traveling. Negative COVID tests are required to board planes when returning to the US from another country.
With an uptick in COVID-19 cases, the Louisiana Department of Health (LDH) recommends vaccinations and boosters for anyone 5 years and older. Other guidelines to protect yourself and your family include:
- Choose outdoor over indoor activities whenever possible
- Older adults, particularly those with underlying medical conditions, and others at high risk of severe COVID outcomes should mask indoors and in crowds
Katie Richard, MA, BSN, RN, is the education & training coordinator for Thibodaux Regional Wellness Education Center. For more information on ways to stay safe this summer contact Thibodaux Regional Wellness Education Center, 985.493.4765.