Staying safe in the water and in the heat this summer

photo by: Lauren Fox

A boat crosses Clinton Lake on Friday, May 8, 2020.

Summer is just around the corner! Many of us will enjoy days filled with outdoor activities and taking trips to the pool or lake. While you’re having fun with family and friends, put safety first when it comes to spending time in water and the sun.

Stay cool and beat the heat

It’s important to keep your cool to avoid heat-related illness. While heat-related deaths and illnesses are preventable, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that around 700 people in the United States die from extreme heat each year.

Heat-related illnesses, such as heat rash, cramps, heat stroke and heat exhaustion, happen when your body isn’t able to properly cool itself. When your body temperature rises, it normally cools itself by sweating. But when the weather is hot and humid, it’s more difficult for sweat to evaporate. This causes your body to produce more sweat in an effort to cool itself, which leads to the loss of body fluid and salt.

Toni Pittman, a board-certified emergency medicine physician with Lawrence Emergency Medicine Associates at LMH Health, said that when heat and humidity increase, so does the risk for heat-related illness.

Certain people are more susceptible to the effects of the heat than others.

“Infants, young children and people age 65 and older are most at risk,” she said. “Dehydration, sunburn, certain medications and alcohol use can also limit the ability to regulate body temperature, which increases the likelihood for heat-related illness to strike.”

Be on the lookout for symptoms of heat-related illnesses. If you notice any of the following, get out of the sun and move to a cool place.

• Confusion

• Dizziness

• Headache

• Fainting

• Nausea

“If you start to experience symptoms of a heat-related illness, listen to your body. Get to a cool place, rest and call 911 if you’re in doubt,” Pittman said.

Keep your skin safe

Sun protection is the easiest method to prevent skin cancer. Scarlett Aldrich, a surgeon at Plastic Surgery Specialists of Lawrence, says it’s important to wear a sunscreen of SPF 30 or greater every day.

“Brief outdoor exposures add up in the long run. If you’re outdoors for a prolonged period, make sure to reapply sunscreen to any exposed skin at least every two hours for the best protection,” she said. “Some surfaces can reflect UV rays and cause exposure, even when you’re in the shade.”

Aldrich also recommends avoiding prolonged sun exposure from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. when the sun is at its peak. Protective clothing, including long sleeves, hats and sunglasses, can all protect you, and some clothing is specially made to block UV rays.

“Your skin does so much to protect you, so be sure to return the favor,” she said.

Drowning is a concern

Sitting by the pool feels great on a hot, sunny day. If you are around kids or people who are unable to swim, make sure to take extra precautions. Drowning can happen anywhere — in lakes, pools, coolers, toilets, bathtubs and sinks. In places where backyard pools are common, drowning is the leading cause of death in children ages 5 and younger. A young child can drown in as little as 1 inch of water.

“It doesn’t take long for a child to drown,” Pittman said. “It can happen in the blink of an eye.”

Whether you’re at the pool or the lake, make sure you know how deep the water is before you jump in. If the water is shallow, you see a sign that says “no diving,” or you can’t see what’s below you, don’t jump in.

“We see lots of injuries because people have jumped into murky water and they didn’t know what was underneath. They may have been hurt because they landed on rocks or they weren’t sure about the depth of the water,” Pittman said. “You should never jump in the water if you have to wonder what’s beneath you.”

If you’re at the lake, especially on a boat, children should always wear a life vest — even if they know how to swim. Make sure that it’s secure and they aren’t able to easily slip out.

“Be smart and be careful,” Pittman said. “Take extra time to make sure that you and your kids are safe.”

— Autumn Bishop is the marketing manager and digital content specialist at LMH Health, which is a sponsor of the Lawrence Journal-World’s Health section.


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