During warm weather, thousands of New Yorkers are flocking to beaches, pools, playgrounds and backyard barbecues. Dr. John Marshall, Chair of Emergency Medicine at Maimonides Medical Center, offers a variety of strategies for safely navigating these cherished activities.
“A few precautions will ensure that you and your family enjoy the summer safely,” said Dr. Marshall. “No matter what activity you choose, some basic tips should be followed to avoid accidents, injuries and sickness.”
Dr. Marshall shares these summer safety tips:
Sunburn – Prevention is key. Use a sunblock of SPF 30 or greater and apply it at least 20-30 minutes before going outside – reapply often, especially after swimming or sweating. Skin does not have to feel hot to get burned, so protect yourself even on cloudy days. Wear UVA/UVB protective sunglasses and a hat with a brim that shields your face from the sun’s rays.
Pools/Beaches – Adults should always be within arm’s reach of children and weaker swimmers. Swimmers should always use the buddy system and never swim alone. Do not dive into shallow water and never run around a pool – always walk. Always follow the instructions of lifeguards. Rescue equipment should be easily accessible. Wear swim shoes to reduce your risk of foot injury and infection. Avoid swimming during stormy weather.
Playgrounds – Always keep children in sight. Ensure that all surfaces under playground equipment are safe and cushioned. Jewelry and clothing with drawstrings can get caught on equipment, so dress children appropriately. Be sure children are only playing in age-appropriate sections of the playground.
Barbecues – Never leave perishable food out of the refrigerator for more than two hours. When the air temperature is above 90°, do not leave food out for more than one hour. To avoid fires: keep the grill at a safe distance from the house, outdoor furniture and/or shrubbery; never leave a grill unattended; and always keep a fire extinguisher nearby. Keep young children at a safe distance away from the grill. NOTE: Propane and lighter fluid create heavy fumes which tend to be most concentrated close to the ground. Do NOT leave babies in playpens or at ground level, as they can be overcome by fumes before an adult is even aware of the smell.
Bug Bites – Use insect repellant containing DEET to protect you and your family from disease-carrying insects. Avoid scented soaps, perfumes and hair products when planning to be outdoors. To diminish the mosquito population around your house, remove any stagnant water, especially after rain. If you get stung by an insect, gently remove a visible stinger with sterile tweezers and disinfect the skin surface. An ice-pack can relieve the pain and itch. NOTE: If swelling becomes significant or you experience shortness of breath and/or any other symptoms, go to the nearest ER to rule-out an allergic reaction.
Poison Ivy – Immediately rinse skin that comes in contact with poison ivy using lukewarm, soapy water. To relieve itching, take lukewarm baths or apply cool compresses to the affected area. Taking oral antihistamines such as Benadryl can help reduce the itch of poison ivy. Apply topical creams such as calamine lotion or hydrocortisone cream to skin to relieve irritation.
Biking/Skating – Wear a helmet. Helmets are the primary defense against serious head injury. Wearing protective gear including elbow, knee and wrist protectors also help to reduce the risk of injury. Wear closed-toe shoes or sneakers – bare feet, flip-flops or other sandals can impede your ability to brake safely and expose your feet to injury. Ride your bicycle in the same direction as traffic, and avoid skating on busy streets, sidewalks and intersections. Do not skate on wet or uneven surfaces.
“Even when taking precautions, accidents can happen at any time,” says Dr. Marshall. “If you or someone you know has sustained a significant injury, seek medical attention as soon as possible.”