Friday, June 4, 2010

Beat the heat: Tips for keeping your family safe and healthy this summer

The smell of the barbecue grill, the sounds of children playing and the feel of warm sun on the skin are all signs of summer. With increased outdoor activities, there also comes a list of precautions you should take to keep your family safe and healthy.

"We know women are usually the caretakers of the family," says Elizabeth Battaglino Cahill, a registered nurse and executive director of HealthyWomen. "Summer brings lots of great opportunities for family fun, but also requires some special planning to keep kids and adults safe and healthy in the sun and heat."

Limit sun exposure

Because exposure to the sun causes most of the skin changes associated with aging, protecting the skin from the sun is the single most important skin care practice you can adopt and impart to your children. Significant exposure to the sun will wrinkle and dry the skin. Uneven pigmentation - from freckles to small or large brown spots - is another side effect of frequent sunning.

The most serious consequence of sun exposure is skin cancer. Most sun damage occurs before age 18, but skin cancer can take up to 20 or more years to develop. Children who experience just a few serious sunburns are believed to have an increased risk of developing skin cancer later in life. Protect children by applying sunscreen at least an hour before heading outside and frequently reapplying sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15. Also have them play in the shade and wear protective clothing. Babies younger than 6 months should never be in direct sunlight and should always wear a hat and clothing that protects them from the sun's ultraviolet (UV) rays.

Keep an eye on your vision health

Wear sunglasses and a wide-brimmed hat when you're in the sun. These two simple steps can reduce your exposure to eye-damaging UV rays up to 18-fold. And, if you wear contacts, ask your eye care specialist about contact lenses with UV protection. Don't forget your children and their eyes. If you are going to be in the sun, make sure your children are wearing hats that provide coverage. Use your stroller hood when out for a walk and pay attention to the sun's direction. When out for a walk with your stroller, try to walk so that the sun hits your back. You may also want to consider purchasing children's sunglasses.

Practice water safety

Before you start splashing, remember safety first. Take the time to enroll your kids in swim instruction classes, and teach your children to take precautions before diving into the water. Make sure to read the safety and warning labels on all children's toys, inner tubes and water wings so that you understand their safety capabilities. And remember to reapply sunscreen every few hours after being in the water.

Avoid foods exposed to excess heat

During the summer months, many people enjoy going for a picnic. Before packing your basket this summer, think about how long your food will be exposed to the outdoors. Avoid packing meat, dairy and egg products that may spoil if not kept cold. If you decide to bring these types of food products, pack them separate from each other in a cooler, and keep the ice in a sealed container to avoid a soggy sandwich.

Stay hydrated

Increase fluid intake as appropriate based on the weather. High temperatures or humidity outside, heated indoor air and high altitudes all cause you to need more fluids.

When exercising, drink one cup of fluids every 15 minutes, advises Dr. Werner W.K. Hoeger, a fellow of the American College of Sports Medicine and director of the Human Performance Laboratory at Boise State University.

Add more for big events. If you're going to be in a race or charity walk, make sure you drink enough to be well hydrated the day before, Hoeger adds. Also, drink a glass of fluid, such as water or a sports drink, an hour before the event.

Watch out for overheating in vehicles

Even on a relatively mild day, the temperature inside your vehicle can quickly escalate. These temperatures can put both children and pets at risk for heat stroke, dehydration and even death. Never leave your child or pet unattended inside your car, even to run a quick errand.

For your sun safety checklist, visit For other health and wellness information, visit

Courtesy of ARAcontent

No comments: