When you inevitably face the demand for an essay entitled “What I Did on My Summer Vacation,” you do not want your opening statement to read, “I spent my summer bandaged, splinted and immobilized.” Although you probably have seen and heard all these cautions since you were old enough to pull-on your own swim trunks, a quick review of the basics cannot hurt.
For Maximum Fun in the Sun…
- Love the sun… but save your skin. You know you should wear sunscreen every day of the year, but you must slather on your SPFs between 10am and 4pm on summer days. Go with SPF40 and remember to reapply your sunscreen after swimming and hot, sweaty exercise. Even if you devote yourself exclusively to languishing on a lounge chair, you should reapply your sunscreen every two hours. Just as importantly, wear your UV protective sunglasses, and cover as much of your skin as you can. Doctors caution that just one bad childhood sunburn can do enough damage to promote mid-life cancerous melanomas.
- Enjoy the season’s fresh foods and outdoor grilling… but pay attention to proper food preparation. Make sure that you thoroughly wash fresh produce—not just a quick rinse, but a careful wash. Leafy greens (lettuce, cabbage, and their relatives) deserve extra attention, because they have been the source of at least three serious E. coli outbreaks in the last two years. Similarly, when you grill beef and chicken, make sure you cook them all the way through; the warning labels tell you to heat them to at least 140 degrees, and investment in a meat thermometer would make really good sense. Meanwhile, quit grilling like the Boy Scouts and start grilling like a chef: pre-heat your grillables in the oven while you let the coals burn down. Then let the meat cook slowly, allowing at least 20 minutes on each side.
- Swim like a great fish… with proper supervision and safety. Even if you and Phelps butterfly to photo-finishes, you should not swim alone, and swimming while under the influence of alcohol or drugs will not go into the history books as your best idea. Beware of the two most common grown-up pool hazards: First, remember long hair gets caught in Jacuzzi drains, and people drown because they cannot free themselves from the powerful suction. Therefore, tie-up your hair. Second, when the sign says “no diving,” don’t dive. Hundreds of people sustain serious head injuries, some permanently disabling or fatal, because they imagine they are smarter than the signs. While you look out for unruly adults, also make sure that kids do not run on slippery concrete pool decks, swim beyond their safe depths, or jump from unsafe edges and overhangs. Secure pool gates to keep curious toddlers from falling into pools, and keep glass and ceramics out of your pool areas. At the beach, just simply follow all of the lifeguard’s instructions and cautions–especially rip-current warnings.
- Bike, skate, scoot, and board all day long… with your helmet on and road rules on your mind. The more proficient you become with your wheels, the more you need protective gear to take the shock and ouch out of your occasional tumbles, tanks, and fails. Most of all, when you ride your bike on city streets, remember that drivers often cannot see you or will fail to yield the right of way to you. Therefore, ride defensively, expecting that every driver pilots his or her vehicle about like your 16-year-old brother. When you move up on the sidewalk, yield to pedestrians as you ask yourself, “Do I really need to be riding here; shouldn’t I be in the street?”
- Whatever you do, hydrate! Dehydration and heat-stroke number among the leading causes of summertime ER visits. Just about anyone who ever has suffered heat-stroke and received treatment assures that “It’s lots better to get your clear liquids from a sports bottle than through an IV.” You are probably more at-risk than you realize, because nearly three-quarters of all Americans are chronically dehydrated. When in doubt, gulp; then, gulp again just to be sure.
The bigger the toys and the bigger the noise, the greater the fun-factor…and also the risk. Powerboat owners must make doubly sure to follow the rules and stay alert on crowded lakes and waterways. Sailboat owners must take extra precautions with overhead power-lines as they step their masts. Jet-skiers must devote extra attention to take-off and landing rules on crowded beaches. Most importantly, everybody who plays with a motorized toy must stay sober—no exceptions, no excuses. Follow these guidelines for a fun and safe summer.
Patricia Williams is a health-conscious freelance blogger, who suggests that those who are interested in medical and health professions look into studying at one of the many pharm d programs available.