1. Cover yourself to avoid sunburn
We all know the sun’s rays can wreak havoc on our body but sometimes we forget just how important it is to protect our skin. Listen to the experts at the American Academy of Dermatology; they know a few things about skin protection. They recommend wearing sunscreen with SPF 30 or greater, even on cloudy days. Be sure to carefully apply the sunscreen to cover your face (remember the tip of your nose and the back of your ears!), torso, arms and legs (especially the tender skin behind your knees). And, pick up some SPF-rated lip balm to keep those lips moist and protected. Remember to reapply sunscreen every two hours, especially if you’re out in the water or sweating a lot. Set an alarm to remind you when to put on more sunscreen and make sure everyone in your party is covered. Also, wear a large-brimmed hat and sunglasses to protect sensitive eyes. If you miss a spot and do get burned, be sure to have aloe vera handy to cool the affected area.
2. Keep those bugs away
Whether you’re in high-risk Zika or West Nile territory or not, keeping mosquitoes at bay is always a wise strategy. It might be tempting to bare skin, but wear loose-fitting, long-sleeved clothes to protect yourself. Apply repellents with DEET (diethyltoluamide, the most common active ingredient in bug repellents) and remember to wash off once you go back indoors. If you are concerned about using DEET or other chemicals, lemon-eucalyptus oil is a good nontoxic substitute. Scented soaps, perfumes, alcohol and candles (even citronella) all attract mosquitoes, so avoid them if you can.
Bee and wasp stings can also take a bite out of summer fun. Avoid wearing bright colors or floral prints—anything that cause a bee to mistake you for the real thing. Wash or wipe your face thoroughly after eating ice cream or candy; any sugary remnants are a delectable draw for wasps and bees. If you are stung by a bee, don’t pull out the stinger with tweezers or your fingers. Use a small piece of cardboard and nudge it out in the same direction as it entered. Then apply a 0.5% hydrocortisone cream or a paste of baking soda and water to minimize the effects of the sting.
Also, after any outdoor activity, especially a hike in the woods, check for “stowaways.” Ticks love a free ride so make sure you don’t bring them home—especially if you trekked through a lot of undergrowth and tall grass. Wear long-sleeved shirts, long pants and socks to completely cover your skin. You will need to toss your clothes in a dryer for 10 minutes, before washing them, to make sure you kill ticks that might have hitched along.
3. Stay hydrated during hikes and other outdoor activities
When you’re hiking this summer, carry a lot of water. You should drink at least a quart every two hours to avoid dehydration.
Even if you’re not undertaking a strenuous hike, you need to drink more water than you think you need. Keep a water bottle handy during any outdoor activity so you can sip from it frequently. A large glass of cold soda might be tempting, but it can actually dehydrate you. If you do drink soda, you’ll need to drink more water to compensate. Encourage kids to drink a tall glass of water every 30 minutes or so.
Although 64 ounces per day is the recommendation for adults, you should increase intake if you’re in the sun and swimming or hiking. A liter per hour is usually encouraged if you’re in hot and humid conditions and/or you’re exerting yourself.
4. Swim smart
Swimming can be a challenge in the ocean or other bodies of water where you have to navigate currents. If you get caught in a current, don’t fight it and don’t panic. Swim parallel to the shore until you can get free of the current. In the ocean, gaps in the waves that look darker are usually indicators of riptides. If you get caught in one, float and call for attention. Always swim where there’s a lifeguard. If there isn’t a lifeguard on duty, bring a friend; never swim alone.
While pool waters are much calmer, it’s still important to take precautions. If you own a pool, keep life preservers, lifejackets and a long pole with a shepherd’s hook handy in case you need to execute a hasty rescue.
Also be aware of dry drowning. This occurs when a small amount of water is inhaled through the nose or mouth, causing spasms in the airway. If you find yourself coughing or it takes too much effort to breathe, or if you experience sudden feelings of dizziness, call for help immediately. And, watch for those symptoms in your family members and friends too—especially children.
Parents may want to set limits or ban diving altogether into pools—your own or those you and your family visit on vacation. Hitting your head when diving into shallow water is a real danger, and doing so can cause lasting paralysis. Only dive where it is allowed and from approved diving boards. And, last but not least, supervise children at all times in or near water, even if there’s a lifeguard around.
The dog days of summer are here. With a dose of summer savvy, you can make the most of flip-flop season safe and secure.