Jennifer Erskine, MD, MSIS
Director, Shore Physicians Group Hospitalists
Can you believe it’s already August? Summer always does seem to fly by, but it’s far from over. With 50 days left, we could all benefit from a little refresher on summer safety. Enjoy these tips that will help you remain free from injuries and illnesses the rest of the season!
- Stay hydrated and cool! By the time you are thirsty you are already mildly dehydrated, so push the fluids regularly if you’re going to be out in the sun or heat. Kids, older adults, and people taking diuretics and heart medications are especially sensitive to dehydration and overheating, and may show irritability, headaches, dizziness, muscle / stomach cramps, fatigue or lethargy. Avoid extra sugary drinks, sodas, juice and alcohol. Instead, stick to water or low-sugar sports drinks with electrolytes. If kids are active in sports, have them take a drink break about every 20 minutes. Never leave children or pets unattended in a car. On a mild 80-degree day a child’s temperature can go up to 106 degrees in less than 30 minutes inside a parked car, even with the windows cracked.
- Stay safe around the water. Drowning is the leading cause of injury deaths for kids under five. Kids around water need alert and focused adult supervision at all times (in addition to any lifeguard who may be around). Know that drowning is actually a lot less dramatic than in the movies. A person who is drowning might not be able to call out, thrash around or move. He might appear as if he is quietly floating or treading water, but if he can’t focus his eyes or answer questions, get help right away. Enroll kids in swim lessons. Make sure you have personal flotation devices for boating.
- Minimize sun exposure. The sun causes age spots, wrinkles and skin cancer. Getting a blistering sunburn when you’re a kid doubles your risk of melanoma later in life. Avoid being outside in the sun during the hottest part of the day (10am – 4pm). When you do head out in the sun, put on sunscreen 20-30 minutes before you head outside, apply liberally (usually several ounces), and put on sunscreen before insect repellent. Reapply at least every two hours while you’re in the sun. For additional protection, use barriers like hats, sunscreen clothing, and sunglasses with UVA and UVB filters which prevent cataracts.
- Beat the bugs. Mosquitoes carry West Nile and Zika viruses, and ticks carry Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, babesiosis, and ehrlichiosis (diseases you do not want!). Use insect repellent if you’re going to be outside (natural herbal ones with lemon or eucalyptus if you’re willing to put it on every 20 minutes, or if you need something longer lasting or heavier, use DEET, which you can put on clothing for kids). If you’re hiking, get light pants tucked inside your socks and dust your ankles with permethrin powder. Do a tick check at night if you’ve been outside, and remove ticks safely if you find them by using a pair of fine-tipped tweezers to pull it out by the head. Eliminate all standing water on your property to eliminate mosquito breeding grounds. If you live out in the country, get some guinea hens to eat the ticks. Skip the perfume, which can attract bees and bugs.
- Know the dangerous plants. Poison ivy, poison oak and poison sumac thrive in South Jersey. Make sure your loved ones and kids know to look for them and avoid them. Don’t pet dogs that have been running though the woods and don’t burn brush clippings as these poisonous oils can be carried by pet hair or smoke.
- Picnic with finesse. When eating outside, use coolers to keep your cold food cold. If you defrost food from the freezer, cook and eat it soon because it doesn’t last as long, and don’t refreeze it.
- Be smart about biking. Get a cool bike helmet and wear it. Bike helmets are for adults, too, and set a good example.
- Playground safety. Check equipment to be sure it works properly and isn’t damaged. Surfaces should be soft such as chips or mulch, not concrete or asphalt. Avoid sending kids in hoodies with strings that can be choking hazards. Kids should wear sneakers or close-toed shoes. Skip the cute shoes that are not worth the blisters.
- Pack coolers for healthy snacks. Being a weekend road warrior doesn’t mean you have to sumo-size it at drive-throughs across the state. Skip the junk food stops and think ahead by planning a grocery list and prepping food. The road is so much more enjoyable with a cooler full of healthy snacks for travel, and a stash of durable dry snacks that will withstand the heat of the car (such as protein shakes, granola bars, pretzels, popcorn, and nuts).
- Plan for medical care away from home. A little planning can mean the difference between a slight detour on your vacation and a major catastrophe! Check with your healthcare provider before going on vacation and make sure you have enough medication. Pack your medications and a list to keep in your wallet including your medications, medical problems, and contact information for your primary care provider and specialists. If you receive treatment on the road, make sure you get a copy of your medication changes and follow-up instructions, and request that a copy also be sent directly to your regular provider.
We hope the rest of your summer goes smoothly, but in the event that you do need medical care, Shore Medical Center in Somers Point is here for you. To learn more about Shore’s emergency department, outpatient testing, physicians and more, visit Shore’s webpage designed just for summer visitors.