Summer is a time for activities and events. Kids are home from school, days are longer, and for much of the country, the weather is finally conducive to being outside.
With the change in routine (and sometimes departure from a routine altogether), it’s important to be prepared for potential new risks. Here are some summer safety tips to keep your family happy, healthy, and active all summer long!
Preventing & Treating Injury
Summer is a great time to get outside and enjoy a variety of activities. With that opportunity, however, comes additional risk of minor mishaps and possible injury. Protect your family by being aware of the most common injuries and illnesses doctors treat during the summer months.
- Water-related injuries: Water-related injuries due to jumping into water, under-supervised children, and boating are common in the summer. In fact, diving contributes to one of the leading causes of spinal cord injuries, and drowning is a leading cause of death for children between the ages of one and four.
The best ways to keep your family safe in the water are to keep a close eye on children, avoid diving into water that is too shallow, and make sure everyone riding in a boat wears a Coast Guard-approved life jacket (no matter how strong a swimmer you are!).
- Heat-related illness: Heat-related injuries range from mild dehydration to severe heatstroke. Symptoms that could mean you’ve been out in the sun too long include nausea, dizziness, headaches, and confusion. If you or someone around you begins to experience any of these, it’s a good idea to get inside and slowly increase hydration. Be careful to not simply guzzle down as much water as possible to avoid feeling sicker. Further, when you sweat, your body loses sodium, too. Replacing water without replacing that sodium (easily accomplished through an electrolyte-filled sports drink or adding a small amount of salt to your water), could lead to a potentially dangerous condition called hyponatremia. This occurs when there is an imbalance of water and electrolytes, like sodium, in the body.
When dehydration is left unchecked, it can develop into heat exhaustion, which occurs when the body loses excessive water and salt through sweat. Symptoms include:
- Pale, ashen, or moist skin
- Muscle cramps
- Fatigue, weakness, or exhaustion
- Headache, dizziness, or fainting
- Nausea or vomiting
- Rapid heart rate
If you notice these symptoms in a loved one, move them into a shaded area or indoors, if possible. Give them water and apply wet towels to help cool their skin.
More severe symptoms that may indicate heat stroke and require immediate medical attention include:
- Body temperature above 103 degrees Fahrenheit
- Flushed, dry, and hot skin
- Lack of sweating
- Rapid breathing
- Headache, dizziness, or confusion
- Irrational behavior
- Convulsions or unresponsiveness
If you suspect heat stroke, call 911 and move the victim to a cool place immediately. Remove any excess or unnecessary clothing, and – if you can – immerse them up to their neck in cool water. (You will likely need help to do this safely.) If that isn’t an option, try to cover as much of their body with cool, wet towels as possible. Keep an eye on the victim as you wait for help, and be prepared to give CPR if needed. Do not force a heat stroke victim to drink liquids or take any pain relievers or salt tablets.
The best way to prevent heat-related illness is to keep an eye on the temperature and avoid being outside too long when it’s especially hot out (especially during the warmest hours of 2-4 p.m.). Staying well hydrated is also key. Try to drink water consistently throughout the day, especially before going outside, rather than waiting until you’re thirsty.
- Sunburn: Typically, sunburns are simply a summer annoyance. However, sunburns can send tens of thousands of people to the emergency room in a single year. In the long term, overexposure to the sun can lead to early wrinkling and aging of the skin, age spots, and an increased risk of skin cancer.
To protect your family, the American Academy of Dermatology Association recommends using a broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher and reapplying every two hours or after swimming or sweating.
Seek medical attention if sunburn is severe and covers more than 15% of the body and is accompanied by dehydration and a fever over 101 degrees Fahrenheit, or if sunburn leads to extreme pain that lasts longer than 48 hours.
- Sports and play-related injuries: With warmer temperatures and extra sunshine, summer is peak season for outdoor play. Playing frisbee or soccer, riding bikes, hiking, jumping on a trampoline, or even just going for more walks or runs outside can lead to more twisted ankles, strains, and sprains. While more severe cases might send you to urgent care, most of these injuries can be treated at home with the RICE method. Rest the injured area, ice to reduce swelling, compress with a wrap like any of these Strive products that can help increase blood flow and accelerate the natural healing process, and elevate the injured area.
If you have a chronic injury that tends to flare up in the heat, humidity, or extra movement that comes with the summer, you can use a hot & cold compression wrap to protect and relieve achy joints to keep moving! Dealing with a more intrusive injury? A support strap can offer sturdier support while still allowing you to move freely.
- Bug bites: With increased time outdoors comes increased exposure to insects, some of which bite and have the potential to transmit disease. The most common culprit is mosquitos, which can leave itchy bumps at best and carry diseases such as West Nile Virus at worst. Close behind are ticks, which embed their heads in their host’s skin and require careful removal as quickly as possible and have been known to carry and spread Lyme Disease.
The best way to prevent complications from mosquito and tick bites is to use an insect repellent that contains 20%-30% DEET to keep them away as much as possible. For children, ensure the repellent contains no more than 30% DEET, and don’t use repellents for infants under two months old.
If you’ve been in a heavily wooded area or have encountered ticks on any member of your group, keep a close eye on the whole group for signs of Lyme Disease. The earliest symptoms typically occur within three to 30 days after a tick bite and include:
- Muscle and joint aches
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Characteristic “bullseye” rash, known as the erythema migrans rash
Lyme Disease should be treated by a health professional. Left unchecked, it can lead to severe headaches, facial palsy (drooping on one or both sides of the face), severe arthritis, nerve pain, and inflammation of the brain and spinal cord.
As communities reopen and mask mandates subside, experts expect to see a potentially strong resurgence of cold and flu cases across the U.S. Now is not the time to ditch your hand sanitizer! Even without the effects of the last year or so of social distancing, summer activities can be a breeding ground for germs. Picnic food, swimming pools, and public restrooms or only a few examples of typical summertime petri dishes ready to infect your family.
- Food: Picnics, BBQs, and grill-outs make up many of our summer gatherings with friends and family. They also put food in precarious situations, often sitting in the hot sun for hours on end. Between the heat of the sun and the potential for undercooking when preparing food in bulk, picnics run the risk of spreading stomach bugs that can put a damper on any party. Make sure all food is prepared properly and that meat is fully cooked. Keep creamy side dishes like potato salad and coleslaw cool (under 40 degrees Fahrenheit), and don’t allow it to sit out for more than two hours. Put it away sooner if temps top 90.
- Pools: Swimming pools are inherently ideal for bacteria, which need moisture to thrive. Throw in wet bandages and curled up towels that may not make it to the laundry after each visit, and those bacteria can really spread! If you or a loved one has an open cut or scrape, make sure you’re covering it with a bandage and keeping it dry. Each time you get home from the pool, get those towels into the wash. Leaving a dark, damp towel in your beach bag just gives bacteria a free pass to thrive and multiply.
- Public restrooms: With the high traffic and activity of the summer months, public restrooms may not receive the attention they require. Add in the heat and moisture that can accumulate in those closed quarters, and they’re the perfect place for germs to hang out. Be prepared for empty toilet paper rolls and soap dispensers, and keep a bottle of hand sanitizer handy to help fend off possible illness.
Protecting Your Family’s Hearing
The summer can come with a lot of commotion, especially as outdoor events get back into full swing, lawns need to be mowed, outdoor work with loud tools is more common, and travel is more likely. This makes summer a risky time of year when it comes to your family’s hearing.
As we’ve previously discussed, hearing loss caused by exposure to damaging noises affects about 40 million Americans between the ages of 20 and 69. Further, because damage often occurs slowly over time, many people don’t realize it’s happening. In fact, about a quarter of adults in the U.S. who self-reported having “excellent” to “good” hearing were actually found to have measurable hearing damage.
- Power tools and outdoor maintenance equipment (such as lawnmowers)
- Car radios
- Personal audio devices (like iPods or MP3 players)
- Motor vehicles (such as motorcycles and speedboats)
- Target shooting
- Sports events
Protecting your hearing is often as simple as finding the right ear plugs for the occasion. Keep in mind that different ear plugs are designed to reduce noise by the level required by the activity (for instance, Music – Noise Reducing Ear Plugs reduce the discomfort from loud impact music while still allowing safe listening, while Protechs™ Ear Plugs for Work block out more sound to protect ears while working with loud machinery or lawn equipment). Our recent post, Ear Plugs for Every Occasion, gives a useful breakdown of the whole Flents line of ear plugs and which ones are designed for which activities.
Summer is a time for celebration and exploration – don’t let an injury or illness derail your family’s fun!
Huffpost: The 7 Injuries Doctors See Most On Summer Weekends
Vital Record News: Top 5 Injuries and Illnesses of the Summer
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Drowning Prevention
MedStar Health: 5 common summer injuries for kids and how to prevent them
VeryWell Health: 5 Conditions Triggered by Excess Sun Exposure
VeryWell Health: An Overview of Hyponatremia
National Safety Council: Learn How to Avoid Heat-related Illnesses and Death
Reuters: ER visits for severe sunburn rack up millions in costs
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Sun Exposure – Sunburn
American Academy of Dermatologists Association: How to Select a Sunscreen
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: West Nile virus
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Tick Removal
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Lyme Disease
American Academy of Pediatrics: Choosing an Insect Repellent for Your Child
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Signs and Symptoms of Untreated Lyme Disease
STAT: As Covid dissipates in the U.S., cold and flu viruses may return with a vengeance
ABC News: Picnics, Pools, Public Bathrooms: Summer’s Germy Hotspots
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Too Loud! For Too Long!
Healthy Hearing: Top 10 summer activities that are dangerous to your hearing
Brentwood Hearing Center: 5 Sounds of Summer That Can Cause Hearing Loss