Summer is here, which means lots of fun, outdoor activities. The staff at Lowell General Hospital would like to share some tips to make sure you enjoy your summer and stay healthy and safe!
Choose a water-resistant sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or higher and "broad-spectrum" coverage against both UVA and UVB rays. Apply to all exposed skin 15-30 minutes before going outdoors and wear protective wide-brimmed hats, sunglasses and long-sleeved clothing. Try your best to avoid mid-day sun because the sun's rays are strongest between 10:00am and 4:00pm Reapply every two hours, even on cloudy days and after sweating or swimming. Sunburns can happen within 15 minutes of exposure with symptoms showing up hours later. Blistering sunburns can double your risk of developing skin cancer.
It is easy to become fluid depleted in hot weather very quickly. Tank up on fluids before leaving the house but keep water or sports drinks readily available. Avoid sodas or juices high in sugar. Drink hourly while in the sun, more often during activities. Don't wait until you are thirsty: drink, drink, drink.
As body temperature rises, your skin becomes hot and red while you lose the ability to sweat, making it difficult to cool down. It is harder for young children and older adults to regulate their body temperatures. Certain medical conditions such as heart disease and diabetes, and medications such as antihypertensive and antihistamines may increase your risk as well. Symptoms can rapidly progress to include rapid heart rate, headache, dizziness, nausea and confusion. Stay well hydrated to protect against this; seek air conditioning or misting water sources as available.
Bites and Stings
Spray yourself with an insect repellent (after applying sunscreen) to prevent bites from mosquitoes, ticks and fleas. The best include (less than 20 percent) DEET, which can be applied to exposed skin (excluding hands or face) or clothing, but use sparingly on older children as it can be toxic (never on infants or young kids). Alternative options are Picaridin or oil of lemon eucalyptus, which should only be applied to clothes (ask for products containing these at your local pharmacy). Call 911 immediately for signs of an allergic reaction, which can include generalized body hives, shortness of breath, swelling of the mouth/face, difficulty swallowing or hoarse voice. For mild stings, remove the stinger (scrape off with a credit card), apply ice to the site and consider Benadryl and/or ibuprofen for pain and local swelling. Later, wash the area and monitor for worsening symptoms. For jellyfish stings, rinse the site with saltwater (not fresh water), pour vinegar or rubbing alcohol on the rash (not on the face).
Wear light colored clothes (to help spot ticks more easily) covering your arms and legs when gardening or hanging out in grassy/wooded areas, especially with high moisture or humidity. Use an insect repellant with DEET. Do a skin check at night on every family member. Use tweezers (not your fingers) to grab as close to the skin as possible, pulling up slow and steady on the tick without twisting. Confirm the head and mouth didn't break off. Wash the area and watch for infection. If the tick is left on for over 36 hours, a tickborne illness can be contracted. The "Lyme Disease-related " rash shows up a week or two later.
Don't forget your helmet when riding bicycles, skateboards, scooters, etc. The speeds generated on even these self-propelled rides can lead to significant head injury if not well protected. No children under 16 should use a riding lawnmower, drive an ATV or other motorized vehicle.
Foodborne illness resembles the flu and can include nausea, vomiting and/or diarrhea. Bacteria grow faster in warmer temperatures and humidity. Be sure to wash your hands before preparing food and avoid cross-contamination with raw meat. Perishable foods such as items containing mayonnaise, milk, eggs, poultry or seafood should not be left at room temperature for more than an hour or two.
Teach your children to swim, but be aware that they are still at risk for drowning. Never leave your children unattended in or near the pool, even for a moment – that's all it takes. An adult who knows CPR should actively supervise children at all times. You must put up a fence (at least four feet high around all four sides) to separate your house from the pool. Remove all toys from the pool after use so children aren't tempted to reach for them. Keep rescue equipment and a telephone nearby. Do not use air-filled "swimming aids" as a substitute for approved life vests. The American Red Cross provides more extensive tips of home pool safety and general water safety.
Check playground equipment before letting children play on it. Look for loose ropes or hot surfaces. The ground should be covered with a protective surface such as rubber or wood chips. Make sure your child isn't wearing anything with strings like a hoodie or open-toed shoes, which could get caught on equipment. Avoid trampoline dangers, allowing one child at a time and no summersaults allowed!
Remember Your Medications
When vacationing, confirm that you have enough and pack all prescription and over-the-counter medications you use regularly. Keep your medications, allergies and health problems lists up to date and neatly written for any unforeseen ER visits.