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House Call: Tips for staying safe this summer

After an especially long and snowy winter, most of us here in Spokane are eagerly looking forward to all the outdoor activities summer has to offer. I know I am. To insure that we have not only a fun-filled season, but also one free of injury, I’d like to go over some tips.

Wear sunscreen that blocks UVA and UVB rays and reapply it often no matter how dark- or light-skinned you are. Don’t forget to apply it to easily forgotten areas like the back of your ears, neck and legs. Sunscreen protects you from a painful sunburn now and skin cancer in the future.

Use insect repellent liberally and do a thorough tick-check when you get back indoors. To remove ticks grasp them and gently pull so as to not leave their head torn off and stuck in you. Yuck. I use 30 percent DEET insect repellant and when camping and hiking treat my clothes with permethrin fabric treatment. Mosquitoes and ticks can carry harmful diseases that are sometimes hard to diagnose. While we are not known to have Lyme disease in this part of the country, a tick needs to be attached for 24 hours to transfer disease, so get them off of you. Black flies have been a real problem this year. Hats and scarves make it harder for them to get to your skin to bite the back of your neck and head, places they seem to prefer. There is a newer repellant called picaridin that is supposed to be more effective than DEET for black flies. It is worth trying.

Wear a helmet for activities where there is a risk of head injury. This includes things like bicycling, skateboarding, and baseball. The consequences of a head injury can be severe and lifelong.

Protect your vision when outdoors by wearing sunglasses with UV protection. Sunglasses now can reduce your risk of cataracts clouding your vision in the future.

If you plan on hiking or camping in the mountains, pack a layer of warm clothing just in case. Despite a perfect forecast, always be prepared for the freak storm that can roll in and drop the temperature by 20 degrees. Hypothermia in the summer is not common, but it is possible and you should be prepared for it when you are in the backcountry.

Stay well hydrated. The warmer it is and the more active you are, the easier it is to get dehydrated. I recommend drinking water regularly while you are enjoying your time outdoors. If you are going to be doing something where you are not near a source of fresh clean potable water, then you should have at least 1 gallon of water solely for drinking per person per day with you.

If you are traveling somewhere that you can purchase and use fireworks, always have a sober and responsible adult to supervise their use. Wear safety glasses and have a full bucket of water or a charged hose ready to douse anything if necessary. Don’t be foolish and start a fire. There have been multiple large forest fires started by fireworks.

Keep a well-stocked first-aid kit in the house and in the car and take it with you for hikes and other activities if you will be a considerable distance away from the car. Advise all the adults in your group where it is and what is in it. I recommend it contain the following:

Adhesive bandages

Gauze

Ace wrap

Tweezers

Moleskin or tape for blisters

Acetaminophen

Antacid

Antibacterial ointment

Hydrocortisone cream

Antidiarrheal medicine

Soap and water

It is my hope that by following my safety recommendations, you won’t need that well stocked first-aid kit, but better safe than sorry. Have a great summer.

Dr. Bob Riggs is a family medicine physician practicing at Kaiser Permanente’s Riverfront Medical Center. His column appears biweekly in The Spokesman-Review.