Finally, it’s Memorial Day, the unofficial start of summer and time to get out in the great outdoors.
It’s also time to take inventory of supplies and techniques to stay healthy this season.
First, it’s as important to have a good supply of sun screen on hand, and some have insect repellent in their formula to help protect against insects carrying Lyme disease. Gina Veres, an injury prevention specialist for ProMedica, said non-whites also can get sunburn and should wear sunscreen.
“Basically, even if it’s a cloudy day, when out and about more, you could end up getting burned and have some sun damage if you’re not using sun screen,” Ms. Veres said. “You want to apply it about 30 minutes before you go out, and make sure you reapply it regularly, especially if you’re swimming or working out.”
The nation’s hospital emergency rooms are bracing to treat people with injuries, which seems to go hand-in-hand with summer, which health officials call the “trauma season,” when there are about three times more trips to hospital emergency rooms than the rest of the year. A National Safe Kids Campaigns study says children will make some 3 million visits to hospital ERs and that 2,500 youngsters will die as a result of unintentional injury this summer.
So how do we reduce the number of accidents and injuries among children? Sometimes it’s simply a matter of common sense. Safety fences enclosing private, backyard pools are as important as putting a gate in front of steps to keep toddlers from falling down steps. And children should always be under the watchful eye of grown-ups.
“Adult supervision is key. Make sure the adult is not distracted by anything else,” Ms. Veres said. “And don’t rely on water rings or swimming pool noodles. If a kid doesn’t know how to swim, that is not an alternative to a life jacket. If it’s time to prepare lunch, everyone comes out of the pool.”
The simplest distractions can result in tragedies. So while the kids are in the pool, no talking over the fence to a neighbor, dashing into the house to check on lunch, and definitely no using the cell phone. Children in a pool need adults’ undivided attention. Supervising children in public pools and in natural bodies of water is also necessary. And everyone on a boat should wear a life jacket.
Bike riding is a favorite outdoor activity and May is Bike Safety Month, which indicates the potential for injury.
“We always recommend that anybody riding a bike or any other wheeled devices — skateboards, roller blades, scooters — always wear a helmet, and make sure it’s properly fitted,” she said. Knee and elbow pads are recommended when using skateboards, roller blades, and scooters.
Adults also should wear helmets when riding their bikes. Ms. Veres reminds grown-ups who ride in the street to travel in the same direction as motor traffic. And for early morning and late day biking, riders should wear reflective clothing and bikes should be properly outfitted with headlights and reflectors.
Though Ohio doesn’t require motorcyclists to wear helmets, health officials recommend that they do.
“Don’t take chances or risks with any kind of racing and don’t weave in or out of traffic,” Ms. Veres said. “Motorcycles are hard to see to begin with, and speeding makes it harder to drive with them on the road.”
Ms. Veres said never leave children, or pets, in a vehicle unattended even for “only a minute” in the summer. And don’t let milder temperatures fool you into thinking that leaving a youngster in a car for a few minutes while you dash into a store is OK.
“In the summer, we hear of children who are left in vehicles and end up dying from brain damage from the heat,” she said. “If it’s 75 degrees, your car can raise to 100 degrees within 10 or 15 minutes. Their little bodies cannot take as much as ours, and it takes longer for their bodies to cool down.”
Children playing outside often play around parked vehicles, so inspect the inside and outside of a car before getting inside to drive off. Walk around the vehicle to make sure nobody or nothing is in the front, back, or on the side of the car.
“We have children playing outside and they may try to get in the car or may be around a vehicle,” Ms. Veres said. “It takes more than 20 feet behind the vehicle for a driver to see somebody or something.”
It’s also important to be safe while doing yard work, which means know at what age kids should be allowed to do chores using power tools.
“Children should be at least 12 to use a push mower and at least 16 to use a riding mower,” Ms. Veres said. “You don’t want a child to ride on a mower with you because they could easily fall off.”
The Fourth of July is coming and revelers will buy fireworks and sparklers, even for youngsters, something Ms. Veres said can be dangerous.
“People think sparklers are safe for kids but they carry 1,000 degrees. It would be highly recommended not to have young children play with sparklers,” she said. To make sure sparklers are completely extinguished once they are used, she said they should be dipped into a bucket of water. “The fun part is waving them around, but that can be dangerous.”
Homeowners put their ladders to good use this time of year, making repairs and painting. Ms. Veres reminds them to have someone nearby to assist and to make sure ladders rest evenly on sturdy ground. For ladder climbing, wear rubber-sole shoes — do not wear flip-flops or sandals or go barefoot. It’s tempting to try to reach farther than the normal arm length, but that can result in falls. Ms. Veres said to take time to get down off the ladder, move it, then continue the project. Finishing the job may take longer that way, but the ladder user will be safer.
Now, it’s about time to fire up the grill. Oh, but if you haven’t looked already, you’ll want to examine the grill to check inside for spiders, as they can cause a big flame.
“Make sure it’s clear and that it’s at least three feet away from any other object, including your house,” Ms. Veres said. “And never grill inside the garage because it could cause a fire or carbon monoxide [poisoning]. Even fire pits should be a no-play zone.”
Contact Rose Russell at firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6178.