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Be Sun and Summer Safe

With carefree summer days, come common summer health woes.

At long last, summer is just around the corner! It’s time to get outside to enjoy the fresh air and sunshine, feel the warmth of the sun on our faces, and experience longer, less-stressful days.

Be forewarned, however, that with the carefree days of summer come some common summer woes that could ruin your fun and relaxation.

One of the worst summer problems is sunburn. Even though most of us are fully aware of the dangers of the sun, sometimes we inadvertently get too much exposure.

What should you do if you get a severe sunburn?

For immediate relief, apply cool compresses or soak in cool water. Aloe vera gel and moisturizing lotion have been used for years to help soothe sunburns,
although very little evidence supports their effectiveness.

Non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (ibuprofen, naprosyn, etc.) can ease pain and inflammation when used within the first 24 hours. Topical and oral steroid medications (prednisone, hydrocortisone cream, etc.) have not been shown to be helpful.

If blisters occur, do not pop them but allow them to rupture on their own. Apply antibiotic ointment to soothe skin and prevent infection once blisters open. Avoid any further sun exposure until your skin has healed. Wear loose, soft cotton clothing on burned skin.

Most sunburns will not scar, although pigment changes can occur, especially if damaged skin is exposed to more burning rays of the sun. 

Be sure to protect yourself and your children in the future by staying out of the sun between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., wearing protective clothing and using sunscreen.

Many of us will be out in our yards this summer trying to restore our snow-damaged plants and landscaping. Do you love to garden but want to avoid getting intensely itchy, annoying poison ivy this summer? Here are some tips to help lessen your chances of getting the dreaded rash.

  • Avoid anything on a vine with three leaves
  • Wear long pants and long sleeves and gloves to protect any exposed skin
  • If you must clear out a suspicious plant or you know you have touched poison ivy, wash exposed skin immediately with soap and water to remove the plant oils
  • Launder gardening clothes right away
  • Be careful with pets and gardening tools that may have plant oils on them
  • Barrier creams are controversial and have not been adequately proven to prevent poison ivy

If you happen to get a bad case of poison ivy despite these measures, see your physician or go to an urgent care center for treatment.

More daylight in the summer means more opportunity for exercise and outdoor fun. Summer time is prime time for injuries—broken arms from falling off monkey bars, sore knees from extra miles of running, strained backs from yard work, lacerations from lawnmowers, and head injuries from bicycle accidents.

Make sure you review and continue to monitor safety issues with your children. Insist on helmets and other protective equipment when riding bikes, scooters and roller blades. Advise caution while playing at crowded playgrounds. Make sure swimming skills are strong, and if they are not, enroll your children in swimming lessons.

Prevention is key in childhood safety.

Adults often fall victim to the “weekend warrior” syndrome—going all out on a weekend—the only available time to exercise and experience outdoor sports.

Overexerting ourselves on the weekends leads to sore muscles, sprains and strains that can persist for weeks. Make sure you warm up thoroughly, stretch tight muscles, and listen to your body when it’s telling you to stop or slow down.

Keep summer time fun to a maximum this year by following sun exposure guidelines, preventing poison ivy, and practicing safety and moderation in leisure activities.

- Mary Parks Lamb, M.D.

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