Fun in the Summer Sun: Safety Tips for FamiliesMay 16, 2018 08:18AM ● By Lisa Drake
Photo by frank mckenna on Unsplash
Have a Healthy Summer: with Sun, Fun and Safety
Methodist Mansfield Medical Center
Ah, those lazy, hot days of summer. Think vacations, picnics, and fun times with friends. It’s a good time for the entire family to relax and enjoy making memories together.
To ensure your summer is safe, healthy, and happy, consider these tips from Nancy Georgekutty, MD, an independently practicing physician on the medical staff at Methodist Mansfield Medical Center. These tips can help you and your family make the most of the sunshine season.
Protect yourself from pesky pests
There’s nothing like a sunny day to be outdoors, whether you’re taking a weeklong trip or a weekend staycation. Soak up all the good things that summer has to offer and treat yourself to a healthy dose of hiking, picnicking, or spending time at the pool. And don’t let bugs wreak havoc on the fun. Protect your family from insects and mosquito bites and the diseases that they can carry, such as the West Nile and Zika viruses.
“Shoo away the bugs by applying insect repellent to exposed skin and clothing,” Dr. Georgekutty recommends. “Use products with DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon, or eucalyptus to protect from mosquitoes and ticks. Also wear long pants, long-sleeve shirts, and socks to keep the bugs off your skin.”
When you come inside for the day, wash off repellent and check your skin, clothing, and gear for hitchhiking ticks. “This is important if you spend time in grassy, wooded areas,” Dr. Georgekutty says. “Ticks can carry illnesses such as Rocky Mountain spotted fever and Lyme disease. If you find one, remove it with tweezers by gently pulling it straight up, and then wash the skin with soap and water,” she explains.
De-stress with Mother Nature
Spending time in nature has been shown to reduce stress, anxiety, and depression. “One of my favorite places is Oliver Nature Park in Mansfield,” she says. Plus, it may help to restore the ability to pay attention when you feel mentally drained.
“Treat yourself to a healthy dose of hammock therapy,” Dr. Georgekutty says. “A hammock hugs your body and can make you feel cuddled. They also have a rocking motion that can stimulate and soothe similar to a rocking chair,” she explains.
Practice water safety
Water sports and spending time at the pool is a summertime favorite, and it offers a quick way to cool down after outdoor sports. However, the pool’s inviting and refreshing water also holds a danger for children, Dr. Georgekutty warns.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, drowning is the second most common cause of accidental death in children ages 1 to 14 after motor vehicle crashes.
“To keep children safe this season, remember to never leave them near or in a pool or other body of water without adult supervision, even if they are good swimmers and wearing flotation devices,” she says. “Adults should actively supervise children by giving them their undivided attention. Avoid being distracted by other activities like using your cell phone or reading a book.”
Dr. Georgekutty says infants and toddlers should be within an arm’s length of an adult when they are in or near the water. After they get out of the water, remove all pool toys so children aren’t tempted to reach for them later.
She encourages teaching children to tread water, float, and swim. Children as young as six months can enroll in swim classes. “I’ve had Charlotte in swim lessons since she was six months old. And at a young age, they are likely to practice and remember what they’ve learned,” she says.
Play outside while playing it safe in the sun
Spend time as a family playing sports in a nearby park, discovering new hiking trails, or exploring on bicycle while getting a healthy dose of exercise.
“We say this every year, but remember to use plenty of sunscreen to protect skin from damaging ultraviolet rays. Choose one that is broad spectrum with an SPF of 15 or higher,” Dr. Georgekutty recommends. “Apply liberally, even on cloudy or cooler days. And don’t forget to wear a wide-brimmed hat and UV-blocking shades.”
When cycling, Dr. Georgekutty insists that your family all wear helmets for every ride, and choose those that meet safety standards of the Consumer Product Safety Commission.
“Also be mindful of fitting a bicycle properly. While your cyclist is sitting on the seat, both feet should touch the ground,” she says.
Stay hydrated by drinking more water, especially if you are exercising or working in the heat. “Water bottles are a convenient way to keep hydrated. Add slices of lemons or cucumber for added flavor, or for a sweeter taste try oranges, raspberries, or strawberries. This gives water flavor without the calories,” Dr. Georgekutty says. “Avoid drinks that contain alcohol or sugar, which can be dehydrating.”
If you or your children start to feel overheated, tired, and weak, it could be a sign of heat exhaustion, which can come on suddenly when playing sports like soccer and tennis.
“Watch for headache, dizziness, fatigue, and nausea. If you or your children feel any of these symptoms, get in the shade, drink plenty of fluids, and see a doctor if you don’t start to feel better,” she advises.
Be prepared with first-aid basics
With increased outdoor activity, cuts and scrapes can be frequent. Dr. Georgekutty recommends some simple first aid.
“When your child has a cut, stop the bleeding by applying firm pressure on the wound for several minutes. Once the bleeding is stopped, gently wash the dirt and germs away with cool water and apply a bandage with a small amount of antibiotic ointment. If a cut is large, serrated, or extremely deep with exposed tissue, it is best to see a physician,” she says.
Most scrapes can be treated by gently wiping away the debris and applying a small amount of antibiotic ointment to protect the exposed layers of the skin. Leave the wound uncovered. After a few days a dark red scab will begin to appear, indicating healing. “Redness, blistering, swelling, or unbearable pain may indicate that you need to see your doctor right away,” she says.
Slow down with some old-fashioned un-tasking
“Just about every day I hear of someone getting hurt because they were on their cell phone or tablet while walking or doing something else,” she says. “Instead, focus on the task at hand rather than multitask. Ignore messages until you’re able to focus on them, and never text while operating a motor vehicle or participating in a sport.”
Catch up on annual wellness checks
Summer is a good time to get back in touch with one’s health and prioritize what is important. If you haven’t scheduled your annual physical, schedule one for your family, with the adults getting screened for blood pressure; cholesterol, glucose, and thyroid levels, and other health conditions. Early detection is the key to treatment.
If you’re ready to get started, contact your primary care physician to help you meet your summertime goals. Don’t have a doctor? Visit MethodistHealthSystem.org or call 877-637-4297 today.
Above all, have a safe, healthy summer, and enjoy the outdoors!
Texas law prohibits hospitals from practicing medicine. The physicians on the Methodist Health System medical staff, including Dr. Georgekutty, are independent practitioners who are not employees or agents of Methodist Health System.