How to Enjoy It While Staying Safe
Picnics, roasting marshmallows, swimming, camping, fishing—you name it—these are the treasures of summer. With longer days and schools closed, summer often means vacation time. But even if your summer doesn’t include a vacation, you’ve likely shed some layers and are spending more time outdoors. Being outside is a great way to reboot and revive the mind. To make the most of this more relaxed season, remember to take a few precautions to keep you and your family safe.
Though Benjamin Franklin was referring to fire safety when he coined the adage, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” it applies to all health and safety concerns. Speaking of fire safety, summer equals fireworks, right? Well, you may want to leave the fireworks to the professionals. In 2016, more than 11,000 people required medical treatment after fireworks-related accidents. A few deaths were reported too, according to the National Safety Council. The organization warns that thousands of these incidents were caused by less powerful devices like small firecrackers and sparklers.
Enjoy your outdoor time, and in the spirit of prevention:
- Locate grills and fire pits away from your house and other flammable materials, preferably on concrete or stone. Keep marshmallow roasting sticks pointed down and warn others when they are hot.
- Use plastic or metal cups and dishes outdoors to avoid the risk of broken glass that can injure bare feet.
- Wear close-toed shoes and protective eyewear when mowing grass or using other machinery.
- Wear helmets that fit snuggly when riding bikes, even around the neighborhood. Head trauma is the leading injury associated with bike accidents.
- Keep a close eye on swimmers (drownings can happen fast). Encourage the use of flotation devices for those uncomfortable around water. Wear life vests that fit well while boating.
- Apply (and re-apply) sunscreen daily to prevent premature aging and skin cancer. Wear a hat to cover ears and neck, and sunglasses to protect eyes from the harmful rays of the sun. Dermatologists recommend wearing light-weight pants and long-sleeved shirts to provide the best protection, especially for those sensitive to sunscreen ingredients.
Traveling to Far Away Places?
If you’ll be traveling outside the U.S., you may need certain vaccines. You can check the CDC travel vaccine site here. Since vaccines and medicines are not always immediately available and/or take time to become fully effective, check requirements and visit your provider 4-6 weeks before departure.
Don’t Forget Medications!
You may have your guidebooks and suitcase packed, but have you thought through carrying medications when leaving for vacation? If traveling by plane, carry medications in your carry-on bag. That way you will have them if your luggage gets lost. If you are traveling by car, remember that closed cars can get hot so keep all medications, not just the ones that require refrigeration, in a cooler or with you in air-conditioned spaces.
If you are traveling outside the U.S., it helps to carry your medications in their original containers so they are clearly marked. Bring a copy of your prescription and a letter from your doctor explaining your condition, especially when you use controlled substances (such as painkillers) or medications that are injected (like insulin for diabetes). You’ll need to tell Transportations Security Administration (TSA) agents if you are carrying liquids and syringes.
Bring extra of each of your medications in case they get lost (or damaged) or your trip gets extended.
If you are crossing time zones, be sure to carefully calculate when to take your next dose. Smart phone apps can help remind you when to take medications.
Keep Your Cool
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) reports that extreme heat caused nearly 7,500 heat-related deaths between 1999 and 2010. Age, obesity, poor health and alcohol use can play a role in managing body temperature. High humidity prevents sweat from evaporating, which keeps your body hotter longer. So, whether you are on the go or not, be sure to drink plenty of water (don’t wait until you are thirsty) and take breaks from the sun and exertion. For some, hot days may dictate the need to stay close to a fan or air conditioning. To avoid heat-related discomforts, avoid the midday heat (do outdoor activities in the morning or evening) and wear lightweight and light-colored clothing.
Don’t rely on fresh water from lakes or streams (bacteria, germs, viruses and microorganisms may thrive in remote waters). If you can’t bring enough water with you, plan to boil what’s available, or use a portable purification system.
Food Safety in the Heat
Food safety principles are generally the same whether you are in the kitchen or outdoors. The U.S. Department of Agriculture states that bacteria does not grow rapidly on food below 40 or above 140° F. In between those temperatures though, bacteria can grow fast and reach dangerous levels after 2 hours, or 1 hour if it’s 90°F or warmer. That means keeping perishable foods like raw meat and salads containing mayonnaise cold. Coolers with ice or frozen gel packs do the job well.
Bacteria on raw meat can easily be spread to other items when juices escape packaging. You can avoid cross-contamination by keeping things clean. If there isn’t running water where you’ll be, bring it and soap along, or use disposable wipes. When grilling meats, be sure to keep them warm on the upper rack until they are ready to be eaten.
When traveling to developing countries, it is a good idea to exercise safe drinking and eating habits. Generally, food that is cooked and served hot, and dry or packaged food, is safe to eat. To avoid the risk of travelers’ diarrhea, avoid tap water, drinks with ice, raw foods, street foods, and unwashed/unpeeled raw fruits and vegetables.
Insects and Wildlife
Ticks, mosquitos and flies are a nuisance of summer. Since they can carry diseases like the Zika virus and Lyme disease, take precautions. Wearing long-sleeved shirts, long pants, socks, boots and a hat can reduce your exposure to pests, as can wearing insect repellant containing DEET. Some natural products like lavender oil and citronella are believed to repel pests too.
Wildlife is fun to enjoy, but better left untouched. A common sighting in nature are snakes. Even though some snakes are harmless, it is best to observe respectfully and back away slowly. Be aware that snakes can swim in water and hide in dark places. If you are bitten by a snake, try to notice its color and size (to help determine treatment). If you didn’t see what bit you but suspect a snake (it will have a pair of puncture marks and be very painful), stay calm and still to reduce the spread of venom (if poisonous) and get emergency assistance. Do not try to suck out the venom, apply ice or use a tourniquet.
We Love to Help
If you are planning a trip, let us help you prepare. We can discuss those summer safety issues specific to you. Give us a call at 800/355-0885.
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The information contained in this newsletter is for general, educational purposes. It should not be considered a replacement for consultation with your healthcare provider. If you have concerns about your health, please contact your healthcare provider.