By Dr. Ebun Ebunlomo
Associate Professor, Public Health, American Public University
Summer is almost here. Children will soon be out of school. We will have longer days of fun-filled activities, giving families a chance to relax and take a breather from the hustle and bustle of the academic year.
The weather is warm enough now to enjoy the sun. But soon it will be hot and you will need to take precautions against too much sun and high temperatures.
Stay Hydrated by Drinking Healthy Liquids
Here are a few tips to stay properly hydrated during the hottest time of the year:
- Stay cool and hydrated. It is important to drink plenty of fluids even if you don’t feel thirsty.
- Steer clear of sugary drinks. Choose healthier options such as water or iced tea for hydration.
- Drink plenty of fluids to prevent heat-related illnesses. The more active you are, the more liquids you need to replenish your body. According to a Mayo Clinic article, “Water: How much should you drink every day?”, the Institute of Medicine has determined that an adequate daily fluid intake is roughly three liters for men and about two liters for women.
You’ll also need to be careful to avoid sickness caused by exposure to the heat. To prevent heat-related illnesses, take these steps:
- Keep your environment cool and dress in lightweight, light-colored clothing.
- Take cool showers and baths.
- Schedule outdoor activities during the morning or evening if possible to avoid the hottest times of the day.
- Keep your home and car ventilated and air-conditioned.
- Seek medical care immediately if you or someone else shows any signs of heat exhaustion – heavy sweating, nausea or vomiting, muscle weakness or fainting. Also, seek immediate treatment for heatstroke – body temperature above 103 degrees Fahrenheit, skin that is red and hot to touch, rapid and strong pulse, and fainting.
Protect Your Children When They Are Swimming
Kids love the summer because school is out and they get to enjoy outdoor activities. Since the weather is often hot, water-related activities are popular during this time of the year.
It is important for kids to stay safe while they’re having fun in the water. Drowning is the leading cause of death of children ages 1-4; three children die every day due to drowning.
Closely supervise your children when they’re in or around water. Teach your children to swim or have them take swimming lessons. Learn CPR and how to prevent recreational water illnesses as well.
Protect Your Skin from Insect Bites and Sunlight
Summer also increases your risk for insect bites and sun-related problems. With the rise of diseases transmitted by insects like Zika, West Nile virus and Lyme disease, it is essential that you protect yourself and your family from insect bites:
- Use an effective insect repellent while outdoors
- Check your clothing, skin and hair for mosquitos or ticks. Check others as well.
- If you are bitten by an insect, get medical attention promptly.
Be sure to protect your skin from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays when you’re outdoors during the summer. Always use sunscreen with a minimum rating of SPF 15. If the weather permits, consider wearing a hat and clothes to avoid exposing your skin to UV rays.
With more summer activities, the chances of injuries in the playground, on the baseball field or around the pool increase. Keep an eye on your children, especially while they play.
If kids are playing in a summer sports league, make sure they wear the right protective equipment. In addition, a sports physical to identify any hidden injuries and prevent complications is a good idea (some leagues require them before registration).
Many families take their annual vacation during the summer. For those families who go camping, check to see if you and your family need to be vaccinated. Learn how to prepare safe food and drinking water. Take along emergency supplies such as a first-aid kit, medications, flashlights and other essential camping gear.
Families planning to go abroad should certainly check for any destination-specific travel advisories. For any foreign travel at all, it is important to learn about your destination. Also, check with your doctor before traveling, get vaccinated if necessary and monitor your health during your trip.
With these quick tips, you can have fun in the sun safely and enjoy this time of the year with fewer chances of disease or injuries. And remember to take a break and rest during this season as well!
About the Author
Dr. Ebun Ebunlomo, MPH, MCHES, PHR, is a trained scholar in health promotion and health education, with over 10 years of experience developing, implementing and evaluating public health programs in clinical, community and work-site settings. She previously was an evaluation fellow at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta. She received her Ph.D. in Health Promotion and Behavioral Sciences from the University of Texas School of Public Health.