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Sun Safety May 17, 2011

Posted by acroanmph in Public Health.
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Protect yourself for more summer fun.

Reapplying your broad spectrum sunscreen every two hours and staying hydrated aren’t the only wise ideas for safe fun during the summer. Following a few more prevention tips will ensure you can maximize your sun-time hours while staying protected.

1. Save your sight. Choose a uniform gray or green lens for your sunglasses. Find a pair labeled to block 99% – 100% of UV A and UV B rays to prevent the formation of cataracts and macular degeneration. Polarized and mirror coated lenses will reduce glare, and both glass and plastic are impact-resistant. The wrap-around style provides the most protection. Remember to wear them on cloudy days, too, and when you are near water, which reflects a great deal of sunlight.

2. Don’t sweat it. Unfortunately, we do. Along with water loss, we sweat out necessary minerals. Alternate sports drinks which include electrolytes with water breaks to maintain proper hydration and prevent heat exhaustion which can lead to heat stroke. A condition called hyponatremia, or water intoxication, results from drinking only water during long periods of heat and sweating. Eating fresh fruits and vegetables, especially cantaloupe and bananas and V8 to drink will also replenish lost minerals and provide a small amount of protein. (Your goal is to replace electrolytes as well as vitamins B, C, E, and Zinc.) Babies dehydrate more rapidly than older children. Aim for a 5 ounce rehydration break every 20 minutes for kids weighing about 90 lbs. and at least 8-9 ounces for older kids weighing about 130 lbs.

3. Allergies, asthma and air quality. The same weather that draws us outside also promotes air pollution effecting lung function, even low levels of particulate matter and ozone in ambient air. Pollen, usually a spring promoter of allergies, is also the main cause of summer allergies. It can travel up to hundreds of miles on the wind. And many weeds bloom all summer, with Ragweed not peaking until August. Check the air quality index in your area by entering your zip code at the top of the page. Knowing the day’s forecast will help you prepare and plan to decrease effects of air pollutants.

4. Get the bugs out. Avoid use of combination sunscreens/insect repellents because the sunscreen should be re-applied every two hours, but the repellent should not. People over the age of 2 months can use DEET at a concentration of 10%-30%. DEET is especially effective in preventing diseases spread by mosquitoes and ticks, including West Nile Virus. Perfumed soaps and hair products, perfume, brightly colored clothes and floral prints will attract bugs and bees. Brush under your eaves regularly and check the underside your car for bee hives.

5. Don’t hold the mayo. Summer potlucks and picnics have the reputation of brining on foodborne illnesses. But it’s not because of the mayonnaise. The vinegar content prohibits or retards bacteria growth. Usually E. coli, salmonella, and cyclospora infections and hepatitis A result from undercooked meats and contaminated produce. Still, if you are bringing cold foods, find a way to keep them on ice or in a cooler, and cook meat thoroughly.

Nearly 4 million people visit the Emergency Department during the summer months, over 800,000 more people than during the winter months. A few simple, smart precautions will ensure you don’t become a statistic this summer.

Further Reading

An earlier post, Kid Safety for Spring Sports, addresses accident prevention with proper equipment and applies to summer months, too.

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