Wellness Topic

Summer Safety

Summer is made for spending time outside with friends and family. You can take a walk around the neighborhood, go for a refreshing swim, or head out for a weekend hike. This special season can also lead to health and safety risks. Take a few minutes to learn some ways to protect yourself.

Three friends pose for a picture on a boardwalk.

Your Guide to a Safe Summer

Watch out for sun damage

The sun is a natural source of vitamin D which can help keep your bones strong. Too much sun can burn your skin because of the sun’s harmful UV rays (ultraviolet light). Overexposure to UV rays can weaken your immune system, cause skin and eye damage, and even increase the chance of skin cancer.

Protect yourself by checking the UV index at EPA.gov or on your local weather channel. Plan outdoor activities when the index is low to moderate. The UV index can often be very high or extreme during peak hours so try to stay indoors during that time. If you need to go out, use sunscreen with an SPF (sun protection factor) of at least 30.

Drink enough water

On hot days, if you’re not careful you could end up becoming dehydrated. Dehydration occurs when you don’t take in as much water as your body has lost. It’s marked by thirst or dry mouth. Your urine may also be darker. Other symptoms include muscle cramps, fatigue, dizziness, increased heart rate, and confusion.

Tips to help stay hydrated:

  • Don’t wait to drink until you feel thirsty.
  • Drink a full glass of water whenever you take medications.
  • Sip water, milk, or juice between bites at meals.
  • Drink a glass of water before and during exercise.
  • Limit alcohol and caffeine.

Prepare for high heat

Heat stroke is also a serious summertime risk. As you age, your body doesn’t handle changes in body temperature as well. Signs of heat stroke include a body temperature of 104 degrees or higher, headache, nausea, or vomiting. You could also become confused or agitated, breathe heavily, have a rapid pulse, or even faint.

To help avoid getting overheated this summer:

  • Spend time in an air-conditioned place. If you don’t have an air conditioner where you live, consider reaching out to a federal or state assistance program to help pay for one.
  • Seek out cool places in your community such as your local library, movie theater, or senior center. Even the mall can be a great place to get relief from the heat.
  • Pick cooler times during the day to exercise, such as early morning or evening. Choose places such as an air-conditioned indoor track, gym, or mall. Consider low-intensity exercises such as water aerobics, walking, gardening, dance classes, yoga, or Tai chi.

Defend yourself against insect bites

Mosquito bites are annoying. They can also be dangerous since some mosquitoes can carry West Nile Virus or other serious diseases. If you plan on being outdoors, especially in the evening, consider using a mosquito repellent with DEET. If it’s not too hot, cover up exposed areas of your skin with long sleeves or pants.

Another insect to watch out for is the tick. If you’re outdoors in wooded areas, or even just gardening, check your skin after you’re done. Ticks like to hide in warm places, such as under your arms, between your toes, and along the hair line. Ticks can spread Lyme disease or Rocky Mountain spotted fever to humans depending on the type of tick and where you live.

Check the air quality

Poor air quality can affect all of us. It’s even worse if you have a condition such as asthma, chronic bronchitis, pulmonary fibrosis, heart disease, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD). If you have these or other respiratory conditions, ask your doctor about precautions you should take.

One important precaution you can take: check the air quality at AirNow.gov or weather.gov. If the air quality is higher than 100, you should limit your outdoor activities.

Be careful in and around the water

If you like to go in the water when the weather gets warm, here are a few things to remember:

  • Don’t go past your knees unless you feel comfortable swimming. And even strong swimmers should remember that lakes, rivers, or oceans require more strength to swim in than a swimming pool.
  • Never swim alone. If possible, only swim when there is a lifeguard nearby.
  • Go feet first if you’re jumping into the pool or water where you’re not sure of the depth.
  • When you’re out on a watercraft, make sure you and your loved ones wear life jackets.
  • Avoid drinking alcohol. Drinking alcohol and being in or on the water could lead to an accident.

Your Safe Summer Checklist

You can have a lot of fun this summer with a little planning.

Before you go out:

  • Know if you have an increased sensitivity due to your medication or medical condition.
  • Dress in breathable, light-colored fabrics and wear a hat with a brim.
  • Apply and pack sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher.
  • Put on insect repellant that contains DEET and take it with you.
  • Monitor the weather and temperature.
  • Check the UV Index to avoid overexposure.
  • Confirm the air quality index.
  • Fill up your water bottle.

While you’re out:

  • Drink plenty of water.
  • Reapply sunscreen and insect repellant as needed.
  • Wear sunglasses that block both UVA and UVB light.
  • Wear a life jacket if you’ll be doing activities on or in the water.

Always remember to:

  • Check in on friends and neighbors on hot days.
  • Call your doctor if you have symptoms from spending too much time in the sun or heat.

Summer Safety Knowledge Check

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