Make your Summer a Safe and Healthy One

My best advice to ensure a safe and healthy summer

Summer is here! And with it comes all sorts of plans to take advantage of it! With kids out of school, longer daylight and warmer weather, I’m sure you already have your calendar packed full of activities. At this point you’re envisioning a fun and exciting summer, but I want to make sure it’s safe and healthy as well. Below you’ll find my best advice to ensure this happens.

    1. Get out and be active!
      Summer is the perfect time to get out and start exercising. Since the weather is typically superb, you can do just about anything outside. Whether it’s hiking, biking, running, canoeing, kayaking, or swimming, it will be good exercise. It may be as simple as starting a morning routine of walking. If you can get in at least 30 minutes of activity daily, you’re doing great. If you can get more, even better!
      You can also start up some recreational sports. Your local Recreational District likely offers individual or team sports for free or a small fee. A quick perusal of our local Recreational District website shows exercise classes, summer camps, and sports such as bocce ball, pickleball and softball. This is a great way to support your local community and meet new people. You can also take advantage of parks in your area for a nice walk or bike ride.
    2. Wear sunscreen and a hat
      While summer is a great time to get out, with it comes the warning to protect yourself from the sun. We often underestimate how little it takes to get a sunburn. For fair skinned individuals this can be as little as 10 minutes. Sunburns are mainly due to UVB but also a little from UVA exposure, so make sure you get a broad spectrum sunscreen. Your sunscreen should be at least SPF 35 and water resistant. I use Banana Boat SPF 50 Sport Performance Broad Spectrum Sunscreen (because I’m quite fair skinned).  There is a little confusion about what SPF means so I’ll clear it up here. SPF is the multiplication factor for how long it will take to get sunburn. So if it typically takes 10 minutes to burn, an SPF 35 sunscreen will ideally protect you for 350 minutes (35×10) with perfect application. Despite this I recommend reapplying sunscreen every 2 to 3 hours to be safe, possibly even more often if you are in the water or are a heavy sweater. Timing your activity is also crucial. If possible, try to plan activities before 10 AM or after 4 pm where the UV index is the lowest. Wearing a broad brimmed hat that protects your ears and sun protective clothing are also smart if you are out on a hike or long walk. Prevention is always the best way to handle sunburns but if you get one you can use aloe gel and cool packs (not directly against the skin) for relief. The burn should heal in 2-3 days.
    3. Stay hydrated
      It’s sometimes hard to gauge how much water you need to take to stay hydrated. For those who are active and in the heat it has been estimated that you should take in half of your weight in ounces of water a day (I weight 190 lbs so that would be 95 ounces a day). Holy waterlog batman, that’s a lot of water! Most people will not get hot enough or exercise enough to need this much. When it’s hot outside you need to stay in front of drinking water or else you can get dehydrated quickly. The best way to check is with your urination. If you are properly hydrated you should be urinating every 2-4 hours and the urine should be clear or very faint yellow. If your urine is less frequent or looks dark yellow or orange, get some water in you quickly. For just about everything you do during the summer, straight water is adequate and electrolyte replacement (in the form of gatorade or other sport drinks) is not needed.
    4. Watch out for bugs and other summer creatures
      With the warm weather also comes a host of bugs to watch out for. There are many different issues that can come from insects and spiders including bites, transmission of disease and infection. The big diseases to look out for are Lyme disease from ticks and West Nile from Mosquitoes.  Bites or stings from arachnids and insects can also create infection or an allergic or local reaction. The best way to keep insects off of you is with a repellent containing DEET (N,N-diethyl-meta-toluamide) such as Off! Deep Woods Insect Repellant.  I use this one because it contains enough DEET to deter mosquitos while not having a harsh smell. Prevention is again the best medicine here but if you do get a bite or sting and start to have a reaction, see your doctor immediately!
      If you are out in nature you should also be aware of any wildlife that you may encounter. This varies on where you live but the big ones to watch out for are bears, mountain lions, and snakes to name a few. For the most part, wildlife does not want anything to do with humans so if you give a wide berth and don’t invade their territory, you will be fine. Stick to paths that are easily visible and avoid traveling alone.  If you happen to spot anything, back up slowly and call for help if needed.
    5. Take a vacation!
      I know everyone will love this one. Summer is the perfect time to go out on the road in an RV, travel to a tropical island, or just get away. If you have kids, they will be out of school so there is nothing to hold you back. I recommend taking at least one vacation during the summer for your mental health. Getting away from the hustle and bustle of work is relaxing and allows your mind to get the downtime it needs and restorative rest required to avoid burnout from being overstressed. If your employer asks why, just tell them that it’s doctor’s orders.
    6. Stay Safe
      Summer is usually packed full of adventures which can be fun and exciting but through all of this, you should always think about your safety. Basic safety measures should be followed to assure you don’t get any serious injuries. You should always wear a helmet when on just about anything with wheels and no safety enclosure. This includes (but is not limited to): bikes, rollerblades, skateboards, scooters, motorcycles, and quads. You should also wear a helmet whenever you are participating in an activity where you could fall on your head or be hit by falling debris such as wake-boarding or rock climbing. Always wear a lifejacket when on a body of water where you cannot touch the bottom. And always wear a seatbelt when driving or riding in a motorized vehicle.

This is not an exhaustive list, but if you adhere to this advice you will more than likely have a fun, safe and healthy summer. I invite any further ideas in the comments. You can also share your summer itinerary and how you plan to stay safe. If you feel this will benefit your friends please share it. Stay safe and healthy!

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Photo Credit Jeff Dickerson