The snow has melted off our driveway, the garden is in and I cannot get enough of our Eastern Washington sunshine. Time to be outdoors with family and friends!
On my way out to work in the yard or go play, it is easy to forget to take care. Here are 10 things to do to keep yourself and your family healthy and safe this summer:
Protect yourself from the sun: Before I work in my garden, I follow the three S’s of sun safety: Slip on a shirt, slop on some sunscreen, and slap on a hat.
It is important to apply sunscreen at least 30 minutes before going into the sun and to reapply according to directions on the bottle. Remember, kids are more likely to tolerate sunscreen slathering when they see you doing it too.
Drink up (that includes Fido): I do not go anywhere without water. I have a drink of water plus a little more every time I think about it. Do not wait until you are thirsty; by then you are probably dehydrated.
Offer water to your kids and pets often even though they may not take some every time.
Protect yourself from mosquitoes and ticks: You have two choices for insect repellents, DEET-based or lemon eucalyptus repellants. Lemon eucalyptus repellants work quite well in my experience and they smell nice, but must be reapplied every four hours.
I limit tick exposure by protecting our three dogs with monthly treatments, and I wear long socks and pants when I am hiking. We thwart mosquitoes by not leaving water standing in places like kiddie pools and watering cans.
Watch for stinging insects: Bees do not usually sting unless provoked, so I do not swat at them. Yellow jackets and wasps can be more aggressive, so I suggest moving away if they harass you. We use a yellow jacket trap for the yard and inspect around the house and yard for nests early in summer.
Always carry an EpiPen self-injector if anyone in your family is allergic. Your physician can prescribe one for you.
Avoid the itchy plants: I love to go to the mountains to pick huckleberries, but there is poison ivy! It may not be an infestation, but there is enough that everyone needs to be cautious.
Wear a U.S. Coast Guard-approved PFD: When we go to the river, we always make sure personal flotation devices (or lifejackets) fit snugly and cannot slip off over our heads when our arms are raised. Buckle and fasten all straps as directed in the instructions.
Kids under 12 must wear a PFD at all times in a boat.
Pack a summertime outing bag: We keep it by the door so we can take it everywhere. It has sunscreen, hats, lightweight shirts, water bottle, and insect repellant in it so we will always be ready for a day in the sun.
Wear a helmet and appropriate pads: Wear your bike helmet level on your head, not tipped forward or backwards, and with the strap fastened snugly.
I not only wear a helmet, but also wrist guards and kneepads for skating and skateboarding.
Watch out for food poisoning: I love potato salad, but how long has it been out in the sun? Unless it just came out of the fridge or cooler, I skip the potato salad and other foods made with mayonnaise.
When barbecuing, I never reuse the plate or utensil that touched the raw meat. If you want extra sauce on your meat after it is cooked, get it fresh from the container.
Say yes to the sandman: On June 21, the summer solstice, Spokane gets about 17 hours of daylight. That leaves about seven hours of darkness for sleeping, which is nearly perfect.
With all this light, I want to stay up and enjoy the long evenings, but I go to bed anyway. After my seven or more hours of sleep, I get up refreshed, have a great day – lather, rinse, repeat.
Dr. Alisa Hideg is a family medicine physician at Group Health’s Veradale Medical Center in Spokane. She is also the Assistant Medical Director of the 2010 U.S. Figure Skating Championships. Send questions or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.