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7 Tips for a Healthy Summer

by John Dawkins, MD

A family of three having a picnic in the shade on a sunny day.

by John Dawkins, MD

Think summer and what comes to mind? Beach picnics, boogie boards and bonfires? Lazy days by the pool? Or perhaps gardening in the yard until sunset? No matter how you plan to play this summer, play it safe. Don’t let sunburns, bee stings or more serious accidents or injuries spoil your fun. 

Keep these seven summer-smart tips in mind:

1. Wear sunscreen

Protect your skin by using sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15 and applying it every two hours, especially after swimming or sweating. It’s best to avoid extended exposure to intense sunlight by timing your outdoor activities earlier in the morning and later in the afternoon — before 10 a.m. and after 4 p.m.

2. Wear protective clothing

Clothing, including a hat, long-sleeved shirts and pants, can also provide a good amount of protection. Don’t forget to protect your eyes with sunglasses.

3. Ramp up exercise slowly

Some common summer injuries have to do with ramping up exercise too fast after decreased exercise in the winter. If we “hibernated” for the winter, we need to return to exercise in a graded fashion.

Warm up with light activity to break a sweat before more vigorous exercise, and stretch after exercise once your muscles are warmed up and loose.

4. Take care with flip-flops

Foot pain can happen as people transition to flip flops with the warm weather. If your feet have been accustomed to more supportive shoes all winter, you want to give your feet a chance to adjust to sandals and flip flops. Don’t wear them out for a full day when you first pull them out of the back of the closet.

5. Treat bites and stings

Bee stings usually just cause a local reaction that can be treated with ice and topical medications like calamine lotion. Benadryl and hydrocortisone can be taken for itching. If you develop mouth or throat swelling, that could become dangerous quickly and you should go to the emergency room.

Shuffling your feet when wading may scare stingrays away. If one strikes, soak the affected body part in water as hot as you can stand and as quickly as you can to minimize the effect of the toxin.

Rinse a jellyfish sting with sea water. Rinsing with any other liquid that does not match the pH and concentration of sea water can activate the tiny stinging barbs of some jellies.

If you have to, use a credit card to physically remove the tentacles/barbs. After the initial treatment, ice is your friend to help quell local inflammation.

6. Be careful when grilling

Grills are high on the list of causes for summer time injuries. Practice routine and constant caution around the grill or fire pit. Never add fuel after the fire has started and grill in well-ventilated areas. Minor burns can heal relatively quickly with immediate cold water. Anything more serious should be looked at by a doctor.

7. Watch children in and around water

Swimming pools and playing in the ocean are classic summertime fun, but they can be dangerous, especially where young children are concerned. 

Never let children in or near the pool unsupervised, and make sure that there is at least one adult around who knows cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). Keep a cordless or cell phone nearby, so you can call for help immediately if necessary.

Set and enforce pool rules such as no running, no diving and no glass. When you’re not using the pool, keep it off-limits with a safety cover that meets national standards.