Memorial Day weekend is hours away and, with it, the unofficial start of summer.
For many families, summer is a time to make memories and spend countless hours having fun together. But with all the activities that come with the longer, sun-drenched days come new opportunities for families to face injuries or hurts.
My friend Dr. Ed Leap, who serves on Focus on the Family’s Physician Resource Council, recently came up with a list of summer safety tips that I thought I would pass along.
Dr. Leap, who’s a gifted writer, also has a unique twist on the subject. As you’ll see, Summer itself will be sharing how to keep your family safe during the season. I hope you learn – and enjoy!
Summer here, and let me say it’s nice to see you, even if you’re pale! Now that rude, cold-blooded Winter has gone on a vacation, it’s time for us to enjoy one another again.
However, before we do there are a few things we need to review. People tend to forget, but as seasons go, I have some dangerous personality traits. If we’re going to spend the next few months having fun, let’s review how you can make our good times safe.
First off, I wouldn’t be summer without that great big glowing ball in the sky. After a long, cold, wet winter, few things are better than lying in the warmth of the nearest star, feeling those rays easing away the stress. However, sunburn is a very real threat.
Remember the sunscreen and the hat. It’s sometimes more comfortable to wear long sleeves and pants to keep the rays down to a minimum. It’s best not to burn at all, because not only does sunburn hurt, it puts you at greater risk of future skin cancers like melanoma. I don’t want you blaming me for that!
While the sun is recharging your Vitamin D levels, it’s also pretty hot. Heat illness can cause muscle pain called heat cramps. It can also cause you to feel very sweaty, weak, nauseated and dizzy, which physicians call heat exhaustion. Taken to its extreme, heat exposure causes heat stroke, which means being overheated, too dehydrated to sweat and having neurological changes like confusion or coma. This is a true medical emergency.
So stay cool and well hydrated; drink plenty of non-caffeinated fluids. Alcoholic beverages don’t work, because they not only increase urination, they also keep you from realizing how dehydrated you are. Furthermore, they may cause you to make dangerous decisions about other activities…and wild animals.
It would seem that I’m sometimes too hot for your own good. So please avoid excess exertion in the heat of the day, build up your exercise stamina gradually and, for goodness sake, don’t leave people or animals confined in hot cars…or hot houses. Every year, too many people die of heat illness; frequently people who can’t help themselves, like the very young, very old or disabled.
While we’re on the topic of hydration, we should cover water. Water and I are very close, and H2O is a huge part of summer fun. I get that! But remember, everyone in the family should know how to swim and should use life preservers when boating. Please show extra care for small children around pools. As they say, “There’s plenty of oxygen down there, you just aren’t set up to use it.” That is, you don’t have gills. (Nobody gets my jokes.)
Now, one of the things you humans like to do most during our time together is move around quickly. Bicycles, motorcycles, ATV’s, skateboards, scooters and all of those devices are tons of fun. But Physics is not just our friend, but our enemy, and it ensures that sometimes accidents happen.
So please wear helmets and make sure that children are not using anything that is not appropriate for their ages. And it goes without saying that you should still wear seat-belts. (Even Winter knows that!) Also, in order to avoid leaving most of your skin on the asphalt, motorcyclists should wear appropriate protective clothing – which means more than cut-off shorts and flip-flops.
Speaking of footwear, it’s wise to use it. Going barefoot is very natural and enjoyable, but foot injuries cause discomfort and nasty infections. And unfortunately, even those beautiful lakes, rivers and beaches often hide broken glass and other nasty things. So water-shoes may be a wise consideration as well.
Now, lots of wonderful plants and creatures come out to visit me (and you) every year. At some point you’ll interact with them in unpleasant ways.
Stinging, biting insects, sea creatures and spiders can cause tremendous pain, allergic reactions and infection. In a few cases, for example black widow bites, stingrays, or certain scorpion stings, it may be necessary to go to the hospital. However, most can be treated with over-the-counter medicines. If your bite or sting leaves you with a red rash all over and trouble breathing or swallowing, you should call 911 or go to the local ER right away. Allergic reactions are very dangerous and can worsen quickly.
Bites from snakes are best evaluated by physicians, since some snakes are poisonous and require specific antidotes to the poison. Don’t panic, just make your way to the hospital. And nobody sucks out poison now. Seriously.
Skin rashes from plants, like poison ivy or poison oak, usually resolve with patience and home remedies like calamine lotion. But sometimes they also require medicine, like steroids, from your physician. If he or she isn’t out enjoying me and the sun, that is.
I am an AWESOME time of year. So please take every available minute to safely share me with your cherished friends and family. But, please… be careful.
If you have a problem and don’t know what to do, call your physician or call 911.
After all, I don’t want you looking forward to Autumn!