Health Break | Published July 11, 2012 | Written by Lou Brungard, MBA, vice president, facilities and plant operations

Summer safety tips to ensure a fun, safe and enjoyable summer

Summertime is here, the weather is warming, the children are out of school, and there are picnics, vacations and weekend getaways to plan! How often is safety a consideration that you make during your planning? Here are a few tips to help keep you and yours safe this summer.

Sun Safety The sun’s ultraviolet rays can burn and damage the skin, so protect the skin by using appropriate sunscreen, with sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15. Also, minimize the direct sun exposure for infants and children by placing sandboxes and other play areas in partially shaded portions of the yard. Avoid direct sun exposure between the hours of 10 am and 2 pm; these are the hours of the peak intensity.

Grilling and Picnic Safety We all enjoy family picnics, cookouts, and barbeques. While preparing the food, keep all raw meat and their juices away from other food and serving items. Ensure that the meat is cooked thoroughly by measuring the core temperature of the food item; poultry at 170 to 180 degrees Fahrenheit, steaks and filets of red meat at 145 to 160 degrees Fahrenheit, any ground meat at 160 degrees Fahrenheit, all pork products at 160 degrees Fahrenheit. Once the cooking is done, never let food sit outside for longer than one hour, especially when temperatures are 85 degrees Fahrenheit or higher.

Water Safety What better way to beat the heat than to take a swim, right? Well, there are plenty of risks and hazards that are associated with swimming pools, lakes, creeks, rivers and the oceans we may visit throughout the summer. The best rule of thumb for water safety is never swim by yourself. Other common recommendations include the use of personal floatation devices (PFD) while boating, being familiar with the waterways you are navigating or swimming in, and take frequent breaks.

Camping and Hiking Safety Camping and hiking can be a great summertime family and friend experience. Plan your trips or hikes, know the area that you are going to visit, and pack appropriate items such as a first aid kit, lots of clean water for drinking and hand washing, bug spray, and your sun screen. While visiting the wilderness understand we are in other creatures’ normal habitat. We are visitors to their house. Just before leaving to return to the trail or site, always sweep the area back to the way you discovered it and pick up all trash. Be observant of the surroundings. Be aware of bugs, bees, spiders and snakes, and have an idea of their key characteristics and the health risks of their stings and bites.

Camping usually includes a campfire. Maintain safe distances around the campfire, particularly for children. This is recommended to be at least one to one and a half times their height. Always have a pail of water or fire extinguisher readily available.

There are some simple first aid techniques that everyone should understand to help minimize the affects of burns and bites, cuts and bruises that we all have experienced throughout our summertime activities. For burns, be sure to remove the heat source as quickly as possible, keep the burned area clean and bandaged. There are commercial burn ointments and creams to help treat small burns. Seek immediate medical attention if you have partial thickness (second degree with blistering) burns. Burn injuries can be a significant source for infection and can become very difficult to manage.

Bites and stings can have several different affects. First, try to identify the insect, reptile or animal. Anyone who is allergic to stings or in the event of a poisonous snakebite seek immediate medical attention.

Cuts and bruises are probably the most common summertime injury. Cut or wound care can be very simple. Control and stop the bleeding, clean the area and cover with a bandage. Keep the wound clean and dressed. Bruises or contusions can be treated following the simple principles of RICE: Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation.

By being able to recognize the hazards and understand the risks associated with summertime activities you and your families will have very fond memories of all the different events you participate in this summer. Remember, developing a safe plan only takes a few minutes of your time. Not practicing safety with your summertime fun may have a lifelong impact.

Lou Brungard is the environmental safety coordinator at Mount Nittany Medical Center.