5 Tips to Help Stay Safe This Summer

By Dr. Nordstrom, Chief Medical Officer for Rocky Mountain Health Plans, a UnitedHealthcare company ~

With the summer season in full swing, it may be tempting to focus on having fun with friends and family. But it’s important to not overlook some commonsense safety strategies that may help reduce the risk of injury or illness, while promoting well-being during the coming months.

Summertime poses some different health risks compared to other seasons, including hotter temperatures, increased time outside and the potential to engage in high-risk sports or activities. In fact, workplace injuries generally increase during the summer months, while the use of health care services tends to increase on very hot days, including among children.     

To help safely make the most of summer, here are five tips to consider:  

 Sun & heat protection. With searing temps causing a spike in ER visits for heat-related issues in some states, it is key to watch for potential signs of overheating, including headaches, nausea, or dizziness. It’s also important to recognize factors that may put you at greater risk of heatstroke, such as being age 65 or older, prolonged physical exertion in the heat and certain medications & chronic conditions. When spending time outdoors, use sun-protective clothing, sunscreen, and sunglasses. Sunscreen should be reapplied throughout the day, at least every two hours, and immediately after swimming, toweling off, or excessive sweating.

 Get outside & away from screens. While too much sun may be an issue, recent research confirms the health benefits of getting outside early in the day, which may help enhance mood, improve sleep patterns, and even spur greater productivity. For kids, getting outside and away from screens is especially important, including for their eye health. In fact, children who spend most of their time on both a smartphone and a computer have an 80% higher risk of developing nearsightedness.

Bike safety. Bicycle riding is an effective and fun form of exercise, but it is also one of the leading causes of sports-related head injuries, resulting in thousands of injuries each year. Despite these statistics, previous studies have shown that helmet use among children is not consistent, with nearly one-third reporting never wearing a helmet. Make sure to always wear an appropriate and correctly fitting helmet and watch out for damaged equipment that should be replaced. Parents can encourage kids to choose their helmet and decorate it, with the goal to encourage consistent use. 

Water safety. The summer is synonymous with time in the water, including pools, lakes, or rivers. Children should always wear life jackets when on boats or near bodies of water but remember that these floatation devices are not a substitute for adult supervision. Sadly, drowning is a leading cause of death in young children, especially toddlers between the ages of 1 and 4. Enrolling your kids in swimming classes is a good start, as well as becoming CPR-certified in case you encounter an unresponsive swimmer. 

Hydration. Drinking plenty of water is key during the summer, especially for children because their internal cooling system isn’t fully developed yet. For every 15 minutes of outdoor activity, people should drink about four ounces of water, which is approximately four gulps. That’s around 16 oz. of water per hour – or more – depending on activity level. Consider skipping soda and sports drinks. Instead opt for homemade popsicles and gelato with real fruit, a fresh fruit smoothie made with coconut water, milk or milk substitute, or yogurt after some time outside.

The summer can provide an opportune time for fun, family, and seasonal celebrations. By considering these tips, it’s possible to enjoy all that comes with the summer as safely as possible.

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