Summer Health Tips

Patricia Erickson

Summer is a great time for families to spend time together, to play outdoors and to enjoy picnicking and barbeques. But along with these activities are some health dangers: heat illnesses, food poisoning, drowning. All of these health risks increase during the summer months, when people are outside more often and are exposed to the heat.

Keep your family safe this summer with the following tips:

sunsetorangeskyWater Safety

According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), nearly 350 children under the age of five drown every year in swimming pools, and another 2,600 are treated in hospital emergency rooms following submersion accidents. Nationally, drowning is one of the top causes of death in children under five, and many of these accidents occur during the summer when children are more likely to be around water.

If you own a pool or hot tub, consider installing a gate, fence or other barrier to the water. Never leave your child unsupervised near a pool, even if they know how to swim. Appoint "designated watchers" at any social gatherings where children are outside near a pool. Learn CPR -- and if possible, make sure all babysitters and other caretakers (i.e. grandparents) also know CPR. Remove toys from the pool when not in use, which will be an added temptation for children to wander nearby.

But adults are also at risk for drowning or submersion-related accidents. Adults need to be aware of their surroundings -- watch for warning signs of strong currents, and never dive or jump into water unless you are sure it is deep enough (the American Red Cross recommends 9 feet minimum of water depth).

Never drink alcohol before swimming, boating or participating in any water activity. Alcohol is involved in approximately 25-50% of adolescent and adult deaths associated with water-related activities.

Sun Safety

Summer also presents risks for heat-related illnesses, such as heat exhaustion and heat stroke. The key to preventing problems is to stay adequately hydrated and keep exposure to extreme heat to a minimum. When possible, stay in the shade or air-conditioning. Wear light-colored, loose-fitting clothing. Drink plenty of non-alcoholic and non-caffeinated beverages. And to keep your skin safe, be sure to always wear sunscreen when outdoors.

For information on specific heat-related illnesses and more on how to prevent and treat them, click here to view Family First's article, "Heat Illnesses: How to Stay Safe in the Heat."

Food Safety

Summer is a great time for backyard grilling. But you need to take a few precautions to prevent food-borne illnesses. Start with safe handling of the meat. Always wash your hands before and after handling raw meat, and wash all utensils, countertops and cutting boards immediately after touching raw meat.

Thaw out frozen meat in the refrigerator, microwave or in cold water (if in sealed bags) -- never at room temperature. Make sure the meat is completely defrosted to ensure even cooking. Then grill the meat immediately after it has finished defrosting.

Avoid cross-contaminationBefore you take the food outside, heat the grill for 5 to 10 minutes to kill off any bacteria on the grate. While grilling, be sure not to cross-contaminate any of the food. This means cooked food should never be put on the same plate that uncooked food has touched, and always wash your hands after handling raw meat.

Fireworks Safety

The CPSC estimates that nearly 11,000 people were treated in hospital emergency rooms in the year 2000 for fireworks-related injuries, mostly burns. Approximately half of these people were under the age of 15.

The CPSC recommends that young children should not be allowed to play with fireworks of any type, including sparklers. Older children should only be allowed to handle fireworks under close supervision. And keep a bucket of water close by for emergencies and malfunctioning fireworks. Do not try to relight faulty fireworks or to ignite any fireworks in a glass or metal container. Make sure to follow all instructions on handling and storing the fireworks.

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