The official start of summer is still a couple of months away, but for many of us the plans are already forming. Outdoor grilling, pools, bike riding, hiking, traveling, sports, clubs, camps — as much fun in the sun as you can pack into the season as possible before having to get back down to serious business or send the kiddos back to school. Most of these activities are perfectly safe — and we do them so often we can do them in our sleep while operating on autopilot. But, unsurprisingly, accidents happen, and it only takes one time. By running through these summer safety tips before summer gets here, you reduce the risk of accident or injury.
Teach Children how to Watch for Heat Stress
Summer time often means children outside running, biking, and playing by themselves. And even if they are within their parents' sights, the parents aren't always close enough to see some of the symptoms associated with heat stress. Heat stress, the earliest stage before heat exhaustion or even heat stroke, can be easy to miss if you don't know what you're looking for. And another child kicking around the soccer ball on the field has a much better chance of spotting the signs before a parent sitting on the sidelines. Teach your children how to look for the early signs so they can protect themselves and their friends:
- Excessive sweating, but cool to the touch and clammy
- Fast but weak pulse
- Sudden onset of nausea that can't be attributed to anything else
In most cases, you can eliminate heat stress before it ever has a chance to grow into something more serious simply by getting into the shade (or inside, if there is no shade available) and sit down. Make sure to drink cool water to rehydrate, and do not get up again until these symptoms have been alleviated.
Run an Equipment Safety Check
Whatever sports you and your family participate in during the summer, take some time out now to run through your equipment and make sure it is all in working order. Check for sizing and fit issues, cracks or stress fractures, wear and tear beyond the safety parameters, dents, and anything else that might make that equipment unsafe. If your child is going to be heading off to summer camp, call the camp director and ask about when the last time their equipment was inspected, and find out what shape their equipment is in. More injuries are caused because of ill-fitting equipment than by defective equipment. Make sure your children understand how things should fit, and tell them not to trade equipment with another child.
Learn About Water Safety
As the temperatures go up, so does the popularity of outdoor water activities. Swimming, boating, fishing — there are several activities that will bring you and your children into or around the water. Make sure you review water safety tips with your children so they know what to watch for, how to prevent certain injuries or illnesses, and how to get help if something should happen. No running along slick surfaces, wear the proper safety equipment and sit properly while in the boat.
Cases of Recreational Water Illnesses, defined by the Center for Disease Control as an “Illness caused by germs and chemicals found in the water we swim in,” also increase during the summer months. If a pool doesn't look clean, or if you see questionable actions taking place, head over to another pool. And, of course, before you head into your own pool, do the bathroom checks with your own family and friends to keep your pool from becoming contaminated.
Don't Forget the Sunscreen
What kind of article on summer safety tips would this be if I didn't at least mention the importance of sunscreen? Problems and illnesses associated with exposure to the sun have been documented for decades. Most of the time, I see families get prepared for big occasions outdoors, such as a family picnic or a day of fishing. But wearing sunscreen during other days is just as important. Trips to and from the car, or even quick trips to the store, repeatedly over time can cause just as much damage as intense exposure all at once — maybe even more so. When choosing a sunscreen, make sure you choose one that matches your family's needs:
- A high enough SPF to block the UVB and UVA rays (SPF works by letting you calculate how long it will remain effective for. For example, if you normally burn without sunscreen in 10 minutes, then when you wear SPF 30 sunscreen, you would multiply that — meaning it would take 300 minutes, or five hours, before you would burn).
- Water or sweat proof (obviously the more you sweat or if you are in the water, the more your sunscreen will wash off. Even waterproof sunscreen will need to be reapplied for full effectiveness).
- Kid-friendly or sensitive skin (sunscreens contain chemicals that may irritate sensitive skin, especially for babies and toddlers).
- Moisturizing (the more time spent out in the sun and wind, the more your skin will dry out, especially if you already battle skin hydration problems. Applying normal sunscreen won't help keep your skin moisturized).
Summer is filled with fun times, great memories, and exciting adventures. Thankfully, with just a few quick and easy steps, you can keep your entire family safe so you can get the most out of your summertime fun!
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