Don’t get burned by your summer enjoyment
Accidents and injury don’t have to sideline your summer fun. With planning and preparation, you can stay safe and healthy all season long. Here are three areas to focus on.
Learning how to swim and cutting the risk of drowning (such as always swimming with a buddy and staying near a lifeguard) are vital to reducing pool-related deaths and injuries, but being alert to hazards associated with pool equipment and supplies is also important.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last month reported that injuries caused by pool chemicals sent nearly 5,000 people to the emergency room in 2012. And according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, there are nearly 5,000 emergency department-treated submersion injuries for kids this age, in addition to nearly 400 pool- or spa-related drownings of children younger than 15 annually. Nearly 10% of the reported pool fatalities occurred inportable pools, which include wading pools, inflatable pools and soft-sided, self-rising pools.
Designating a “water watcher” — an adult who’s “not grilling, reading or talking with others” but actively supervising every child each time they are in or near the water — can boost children’s safety, says Helen Lightstone-Bloch, consumer safety manager for the Association of Pool & Spa Professionals.
And toss out old or broken drain covers and install anti-entrapment or safety drain covers that are compliant with the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act, she advises. The law is named after the 7-year-old girl who drowned after she was pulled underwater and trapped by a hot tub’s powerful suction — despite being a strong swimmer.
CPSC also recommends installing and using ground-fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs) for protection against electrocution hazards involving electrical circuits and underwater lighting circuits in and around pools, spas and hot tubs.
Among other APSP recommendations:
• Ensure several layers of protection around your pool by installing both fencing at least 4 feet high around the perimeter along with gate and/or door alarms that will sound anytime someone enters the pool area.
• Never run your pool pump at speeds higher than the recommended maximum. Install pool covers and lockable covers on hot tubs.
• Keep all cleaners, chemicals and maintenance supplies in a locked storage area, away from children and pets. Check labels for proper storage and expiration dates, and follow manufacturers’ guidelines.
REDUCE SUN-DAMAGE RISKS
If it doesn’t come out of a bottle, forget the idea of a safe tan, say skin experts. Tans are a result of skin cell damage caused by sun exposure. And no matter what your complexion, skin tone or racial or ethnic background, you need to protect your skin to reduce the risk of developing skin cancer.
With 3.5 million cases diagnosed in 2013, skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the U.S, and that number is expected to rise in 2014, says Jeanine Downie, a dermatologist in Montclair, N.J., and spokeswoman for the Skin Cancer Foundation. About one in five Americans will be diagnosed with skin cancer in their lifetimes.
To enjoy outdoor activities while staying safe in the sun, slather on sunscreen with an SPF (sun protection factor) of 30 “at a bare minimum, every day, rain or shine,” and apply it liberally and reapply every two hours, she says.
Make sure it’s labeled “broad spectrum” because that provides protection from both ultraviolet A (UVA) rays (the chief cause of skin tanning and wrinkling) and ultraviolet B (UVB) rays (the principal cause of skin reddening and sunburn), both of which contribute to skin cancer, says Washington, D.C., dermatologist Sandra Read, co-chair of the National Council on Skin Cancer Prevention.
And don’t forget to stay in the shade as much as possible; Limit exposure during the sun’s most intense hours of the day (10 a.m. to 4 p.m.); wear wide-brimmed hats and close-fitting, wraparound sunglasses to protect your skin and eyes from damaging UV radiation; and take extra care around water and sand because they reflect UV rays and may result in quicker burns.
WATCH FOR BITES AND STINGS
Most insect bites and stings are easily treatable and non-threatening, but some people can have allergic reactions that require emergency treatment, and some bites can introduce disease into the human body, says Alexander Rosenau, president of The American College of Emergency Physicians and senior vice chair of emergency medicine at Lehigh Valley Health Network, in Allentown, Pa.
Signs and symptoms of a severe reaction to an insect bite include nausea; facial swelling; difficulty breathing; abdominal pain; and dizziness or a sharp drop in blood pressure, according to the physicians group.
Ticks that spread Lyme disease and mosquitoes that can transmit West Nile virus can be kept at bay with the use of repellent containing DEET, according the CDC. DEET should never be used on children under age 2, and parents should apply repellent to older children. Insect repellents such as picaridin, IR3535 and the plant-based oil of lemon eucalyptus have also been shown effective against mosquitoes, says the CDC.
Reduce the number of mosquitoes around the house by emptying standing water, especially after a rain, from flower pots, gutters, buckets, pool covers, pet water dishes, discarded tires and birdbaths on a regular basis.
“The type of ticks that cause Lyme disease are not much bigger than a large period at the end of a sentence,” says Rosenau, so if you’re out hiking or playing in a wooded or grassy area wear light-colored, long sleeves and pants to cover yourself and make it easier to spot the tiny insects, and bathe or shower after potential exposure to more easily check yourself.