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Tips for a Safer Summer Outdoors

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By Nancy Churnin

6-25-homespunRISMEDIA, June 25, 2009-(MCT)-Summertime – time to relax, kick back and take it easy? Yes, but it’s also the busiest season for the emergency room, doctors say. So be prepared.

To keep injuries from climbing with the temperature, check out this advice from local doctors and others:

Hot Stuff

Problem: Heat cramps, which can lead to heat exhaustion, which can lead to heat stroke.

How to avoid: Acclimatize gradually to hot, humid weather; athletes should not do prolonged or excessive exercise.

Stay out of the direct sun during the hottest part of the day and drink lots of water and fluid replacements. Steer clear of alcohol as it speeds dehydration, which is why athletes are advised not to drink even the night before a game.

Never leave a child alone in a car, even with a window slightly open. When leaving a car, always check for your child. To remember a child, place something you’ll need at your next stop, such as a purse, lunch, gym bag or briefcase on the floor near where the child is sitting.

Water Warnings

Problem: Drowning is the second-leading cause of accidental death among children ages 1 to 14, according to a 2005 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.

Why it happens: People overestimate their swimming abilities; alcohol can impair balance and judgment; horseplay among older kids.

How to avoid: Never swim alone. Never leave children unattended around pools, lakes, oceans or bathtubs. Put alarms on doors and windows leading to the pool. Keep rescue equipment and U.S. Coast Guard-approved flotation devices by the pool. Have phone access by the pool.

Before you get on a boat, take a boater education course (see www.tpwd.state.tx.us). Wear a Coast Guard-approved life jacket (required for any child younger than 13 by Texas law when the boat is under way) and leave the alcoholic beverages at home as the constant movement of the boat magnifies the effects of the alcohol.

Bicycle and Car Accidents

Problem: Accidents are the most common cause of injury in children and adolescents.

Why they happen: During the summer there are more cyclists and drivers on the road at all hours. Teen drivers tend to speed, text or make calls while driving and fail to use seat belts.

Who is vulnerable: All ages, but particularly kids and adolescents. May is the deadliest month for North Texas teen drivers, according to data from Allstate Insurance Co.’s Teen Driving Hotspots, but July and August are close behind.

How to avoid: Before giving a teen keys to the car, parents should talk about driving expectations.

Children and teens should learn bicycle safety rules before they go out riding. All children should wear proper fitting helmets and bright clothing. The bike should not be too big for the child; the child should be able to straddle the bike and have both feet touch the ground.

Sun Damage

Problem: Sunburns can present a risk for skin cancers, such as basal cell carcinoma and melanoma in the future. Excessive ultraviolet exposure can also damage eyes – the cornea, the lens and even the retina.

How to avoid: Wear sunscreen as directed with an SPF of at least 15 to 30. Wear a wide-brimmed hat, loose-fitting clothes with long sleeves and pants to cover ears, neck, tops of the feet and exposed scalp. Keep infants out of direct sunlight and use an umbrella, blanket or towel over a carrier and sun shields on car windows. Don’t buy sunglasses that state they “block UV” unless they say they block 99 to 100% of UV rays.

What to do if you are burned:

Use ibuprofen as needed for pain. Take Benadryl or antihistamines for itching. Apply cool packs or soak in cool water. Soothe with moisturizing lotions or aloe vera gel.

Bites, Stings, and Poison Plants

Problem: Bites from mosquitoes and spiders or stings from hornets, bees or wasps can be deadly. So can poison ivy or other poisonous plants if they cause a systemic reaction.

How to avoid: Adults should put insect repellant on their hands and then rub their hands on the child’s skin. Avoid putting it around the eyes, mouth and open wounds, and use it sparingly around the ears. Do not apply it to a child’s hands because children tend to put their fingers in their mouths.

Wear light-colored clothes, and tuck your pant legs into socks and shirts into pants so your skin is not exposed. Avoid heavy perfume.

What to do if you have a severe allergic reaction:

Call 911. Don’t scratch. Clean the area with soap and water. Use Benadryl to relieve symptoms, but it will not stop a systemic reaction.

First Aid

General tips: Create a health information card for each family member with full name, allergies, current medications, emergency contact, primary care physician’s name and phone number.

Enroll the family in classes to learn first aid, CPR and how to use a defibrillator. You can find them at your local YMCA or at the Red Cross at www.redcrossdallas.org.

SOURCES: Dr. Erica Sails, family medicine physician on staff at Baylor Regional Medical Center at Plano; Dr. Mark Till, director of emergency medicine at Texas Health Presbyterian Dallas; the Children’s Medical Center Dallas staff; and Dallas Morning News files.

Dallas Morning News correspondent Molly Motley Blythe contributed to this
report.

©2009, The Dallas Morning News.
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

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