It’s difficult to believe that summer is drawing near. Days are getting longer, afternoons are getting warmer, and spring flowers are making way for summer vegetables. That also means many of us will be spending more time outdoors – socially distanced, of course – which means more time in the sun, more time on or in the water and more time in the woods.
Now is a great time to think about keeping your entire family safe on the water. The best drowning prevention is learning to swim. When they open again, many area pools have great swimming lessons for children and adults, most with financial assistance available. Regardless of their swimming skill, children should wear life jackets any time they’re boating, and adults can choose to be safe and good role models by wearing them, too. If you’re at the pool, make sure an alert adult is always within arm’s reach of children.
Sadly, many drownings happen among teens who swim unsupervised. This is in part because they take risks in open water, which is far more dangerous than pool swimming. Remind your teens that drowning is a serious risk, and open water has hazards that include currents, cold temperatures, difficult to determine depth of water and getting too far from shore to get back to safety. For teens and adults, drug and alcohol use impairs judgment and physical capacity and greatly increases the risk of drowning.
Prevention is better than treatment, so helmets for bike riding, roller blading and scooters is a good idea (and it’s also the law for the city of Spokane). I’m also going to wear wrist and knee guards if I get on a scooter or roller blades because getting scraped up or broken just doesn’t sound that good to me.
Summer means sun, which also can mean sunburn. Before going out into the sun, apply a sunblock of SPF 30 or higher to your sun-exposed skin. Reapply it regularly. Wear a hat with a 360- degree brim and sunglasses with proper UV protection to guard your face and eyes. Lightweight clothes keep you cooler and also protect your skin from the sun. If you can, avoid the sun midday when rays are strongest, or find a spot in the shade to wait out the midday hours.
This also is a great time to check on your family’s equipment and skills for first aid. From bee stings to bloody noses to bike crashes, knowing how to treat the basics can be critical. Start by getting the right training – CPR and basic first aid. These trainings are not long but can save a life. If you have infants in your household, infant CPR can be critical, too.
You can go to the pharmacy and buy a prepacked first-aid kit. Many of these can be useful in getting your home first-aid kit started. The most important thing is that you’ve considered what activities your family prefers and how you can be prepared for injury. If you’re a cycling family, you might need larger bandages. If you’re a family who enjoys time on the water, you might need to include more sunblock and aloe.
We’re almost to biting bug season. Deet-based mosquito repellant is my friend. Picaridin is more effective for prevention of black fly bites. They are worse near moving water and like to bite the back of your neck and scalp. I’m also a big fan of permethrin fabric treatment to keep bugs from biting through clothing.
We physicians see so many summer injuries that can easily be avoided. This summer let’s all take steps to be prepared to keep our families and ourselves safe.
Bob Riggs is a family medicine physician at Kaiser Permanente’s Riverfront Medical Center. His column appears biweekly in The Spokesman-Review.
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