Summer is a time for rest and relaxation, sunshine, vacations and outdoor activities. But summer fun comes with the potential for serious health risks. Area health officials recommend taking a few simple steps to help prevent common health issues and ensure an enjoyable summer, without frequent visits to a doctor's office.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that three children die each day from drowning. When the weather is exceptionally warm, people of all ages are at greater risk of developing heat-related illnesses. The CDC also reports that cases of Lyme disease and West Nile virus, caused by tick and mosquito bites, respectively, increase during the summer in the United States.
"People don't think of health and safety as often as they should during the summer," said Jessica Pennington, MD, CHI Saint Joseph Medical Group - Primary Care in Berea. "We see a lot of adults and children who could have made a simple change that would have kept them out of the doctor's office, like applying more sunscreen or bug spray."
To avoid water-related accidents, always supervise children when they are in or around the pool or another body of water. Teaching kids about water safety and how to swim can help protect them from drowning. Learning CPR is also helpful, not just for summer, but throughout the year.
Even young, healthy people can get sick from the heat. Prevention is the best defense for heat-related illnesses. Never leave children or pets in a parked car for any duration of time, even if the windows are down. Dress in light-colored, lightweight and loose clothing, and schedule outdoor activities during morning or evening hours. Stay hydrated when spending time in the heat.
To protect your skin from the sun's harmful UVA and UVB rays, apply sunscreen with at least SPF 15 protection anytime you go outside. Just a few serious sunburns can dramatically increase your risk of developing skin cancer later in life.
Always use an effective insect repellant before going outside, and check yourself and your children for mosquito bites and ticks after outdoor activities. Removing leaf piles or unkempt yard waste from frequented areas can help deter ticks, and creating a buffer between wooded areas and lawns with gravel or mulch can restrict tick migration into recreational areas. Citronella candles can keep mosquitos and other insects away when spending time outdoors.
"Taking simple, preventive and precautionary steps is the best way to reduce your risk for health issues this summer," said Dr. Pennington. "If you or a child in your care experience a swimming accident, heat-related illness, sunburn, insect bite, or any other summertime ailment, contact your physician right away to determine the best treatment plan."