Summer Hazards

ANDERSON — As schools close and temperatures continue to rise, one thing is certain: summer has arrived.

For many, this means spending more time outdoors, hosting get-togethers, finding time to relax and traveling. With these activities, however, also come a few hazards that can be protected against, but are often overlooked.

Heat and sun exposure

Spending time outdoors has numerous health benefits, but medical professionals caution people to pay attention to the signals their bodies send.

The best time to schedule outdoor activities — especially for children — is in the early morning or evening, as opposed to midday, when temperatures are likely the hottest, according to St. Vincent’s Summertime Safety Tips.

While outside, it’s important to note body temperature as well.

Heat exhaustion can be associated with “heavy sweating, dizziness, a rapid pulse, nausea, headache and/or cool, moist skin,” according to American Family Care’s Six Summer Health Hazards. Alleviating these symptoms can be as simple as stepping into the shade, but staying in the sun may prove more severe.

American Family Care warns that too much exposure to heat may lead to heat stroke. When a person’s body reaches 104 degrees Fahrenheit, the organization states, a person’s brain, kidneys and muscles can be damaged.

To reduce one’s body temperature, St. Vincent’s Summertime Safety Tips suggest taking cold showers, knowing where to find air conditioning and staying hydrated.

Skin care is also important to take into consideration when spending time outside.

American Family Care’s Six Summer Health Hazards states that at least 30 SPF sunscreen should always be worn, and dermatologist Dr. Pyra Young warns against sunbathing.

“Many might be tempted to tan in a tanning bed to get a ‘good base’ before vacation. Some do it to look good in their swimsuit, and some might even think that they are preventing burns and protecting their skin,” Young said. “But the reality is that any tanning, whether it’s from direct sun or from a tanning bed, is dangerous and harmful.”

Young added that tanning increases skin cancer risks, saying “UV rays are carcinogenic, just like smoking.”

“Just like there is no safe amount of smoke for our bodies, there is no safe amount of tanning,” Young said. “Tanning even once in a tanning bed increases your risk of skin cancer by 67%.”

Activity-related risks

It can also be tempting to run outside and take advantage of the weather right away, but St. Vincent’s tips state it’s best to ease into activity to prevent injury.

From wearing a helmet and reflective gear while riding a bike to discussing water safety with children before going swimming, there are a number of preventative measures that can be taken before the fun begins.

“It’s a known fact that wearing a helmet can reduce the risk of head injury to bicyclists by as much as 85%,” said Mark Rohfling, trauma program manager at Community Hospital in Anderson.

He also said safety gear such as life vests can be vital in any situation involving water.

“Every day in the U.S., there are an average of about 10 unintentional drownings,” Rohfling said. “Most of these are children ages 1-4 and most of these occur in home swimming pools.”

In St. Vincent’s Six Summertime Water Safety Tips, the hospital suggests teaching children to swim between the ages of 1 and 4, adding that life jackets should not be substituted with “water wings or arm floaties,” — especially for weak swimmers — as they are not flotation devices and “should not be relied upon to keep kids afloat.”

It is also important to be aware of one’s surroundings.

While hiking or camping in wooded areas, American Family Health Care suggests wearing “long pants tucked into your socks” and other clothing that reduces the amount of skin exposed. These measures, along with sticking to trails and “avoiding high grass,” are ways to avoid ticks and other insect bites.

Bugs can be attracted to a variety of things associated with warmer weather, such as sweat and cold, sticky drinks, so American Family Health Care recommends purchasing insect repellent “with a 20% or higher concentration of DEET.”

Follow Brooke Kemp on Twitter @brookemkemp or contact her at 765-640-4861 or brooke.kemp@heraldbulletin.com.