From Kaiser Permanente Northern California
Temperatures are climbing and the days are getting longer. Summer is quickly approaching, and in Northern California that means more people will be hitting the great outdoors for recreation, picnicking, or just plain relaxing in the backyard hammock.
“Summer is a wonderful time to get outside and be active, and to exercise as a family, but to get the best out of the season, it pays to follow some basic health and safety advice,” says Dr. Scott Gee, Kaiser Permanente’s director of prevention and health information in Northern California and a practicing pediatrician.
Here’s a quick look at five important summer-safety topics. For more information about these seasonal tips – and for detailed, reliable information and advice for staying healthy all year long – go to Kaiser Permanente’s online Health Encyclopedia on kp.org: (https://members.kaiserpermanente.org/kpweb/healthency/entrypage.do). It’s free to everyone.
- Sunburn – Wear hats and opaque long-sleeved shirts and pants while outdoors. Use sunglasses with UV protection. Stay in the shade where possible. Try to stay out of the sun between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Use sunscreen with SPF of 16 or higher, and reapply every 3 to 4 hours or immediately after swimming or exercising.
- Exercise – Drink water before, during and after exertion. Stay in the shade and avoid exercising in the middle of the day. Pace yourself and take frequent breaks. Take extra care if the temperature is above 80 and avoid exercising at all if the temperature is in the 90s, or it is humid. Call 911 or other emergency services immediately if you have stopped sweating or have other signs of heatstroke, such as a fast heart rate, dizziness or confusion, high body temperature, or extreme lethargy.
- Insect bites and stings – Wear clothing that covers the skin, and when needed, apply insect repellant containing DEET to clothing, shoes and exposed skin. For children, use products with no more than 10 percent DEET and do not apply to hands. In cases of bites or stings, remove the stinger (if applicable) and use ice to reduce pain, itching and swelling. For ticks, use tweezers and pull straight away from the skin to remove. Wash the area and apply an antiseptic. If a rash, fever, headache or fatigue develops, call your doctor.
- Water safety – Drowning is the leading cause of death and injury for children under 5 in California. Never leave a child unattended near a pool or other body of water for even a minute, even if the child knows how to swim. All pools are required to be fenced and to have a self-latching gate. If you are outside the fence, check to make sure the gate and latch are functioning.
- Poison oak – Know what poison oak looks like and avoid it when outdoors. The leaves grow in clusters of three and are green or red in the spring and summer and orange or brown in the fall. If you come into contact with the leaves, flush exposed areas with cold water for 20 minutes. Wash everything exposed – clothing, shoes, even your dog. If a rash develops, using a topical steroid cream over 10 to 14 days can reduce itching. Cut children’s fingernails and encourage them to not scratch the rash.