Summer activities carry risk
Q: How do I keep my family safe in the summer, when there are so many hazards?
A: Summer is a fun and active season for many families. But many summer activities can indeed carry health hazards. Many problems can be prevented:
Overexposure to sun
Excess UV radiation can cause sunburn but also eye damage, immune system suppression, premature aging of the skin, and skin cancer. Avoid too much exposure by staying out of the sun or applying sunscreen. You can get burned even on a cloudy day. Reapply sunscreen after swimming or during extended periods in the sun.
Avoid vigorous exercise in very hot weather. Heat exhaustion and heatstroke can happen to anyone who overworks on a hot day. Symptoms of heatstroke vary, but include dry, hot skin, high body temperature, confusion, lethargy, seizures, and problems with balance. The elderly are especially vulnerable, and should keep out of the sun, seek air conditioned areas, and stay well hydrated with cool fluids.
Avoid areas where bugs congregate, such as stagnant pools of water, uncovered foods, and gardens where flowers are in bloom. Use insect repellents when needed to prevent insect bites. Ticks can transmit Lyme disease and other illnesses; mosquitoes can transmit West Nile virus.
You can drown in as little as six inches of water. Closely monitor children, don't swim alone, and never dive into unknown waters or swim in areas designated as off limits. Avoid alcohol when participating in water activities: most water-related accidents and deaths involve alcohol.
As the weather warms up, we bring our meals outside. Barbecue grills should only be used outdoors and in well-ventilated areas. Inspect your grill for safety and clean it regularly, making sure any wire-brush remnants are clear before adding food. Never leave a grill unattended.
By following these safety tips, you can prevent accidents and injuries - and avoid a trip to the emergency room.
Anthony Mazzeo, MD, is director of emergency medicine at Mercy Fitzgerald Hospital.