The summer months bring warm temperatures and bright sunshine. Most people take for granted that summer will be a time of fun and relaxation, forgetting that dangers can be associated with many summertime activities. Local first responders use these early summer months to try to educate the public about the best means to prevent injuries or disasters typically associated with this season.
This time of the year we try to promote water safety, said Rick Borden, the director of community preparedness for the American Red Cross. `Learn how to swim. You would be amazed at the number of people who don’t know how to swim. Whether you are 3 or 30, we can offer programs.`
Cross said in addition to learning the basic skills of swimming, a major component of their swim programs is safety guidelines. Students in the programs are taught to not swim alone and how to use a throw rope to assist a swimmer in trouble.
Borden said whether people know how to swim or not, they should have the right rescue equipment available. A throw rope about 20 feet long or a safety tube should be available to toss out to swimmers in trouble. Borden said use of the throw rope and safety tubes keeps the rescuer safe and allows the rescuer to save more people.
`It doesn’t matter if you are a good swimmer,` he said. `The instinct of a person who is in trouble is to grab on.`
For people in boats, kayaks and canoes, life jackets should be worn at all times. George June, chief of the Clifton Park-Halfmoon Emergency Corps, said the balance on a boat can change in an instant. If the canoe or boat turns over, there will be no time to search for and put on a life vest, so life preservers should be put on before entering the watercraft. Borden also reminds people not to use alcohol when swimming or boating.
Use your head
`Another important safety issue is helmets,` said June. Whether biking, rollerblading, or riding an all-terrain vehicle, wearing a helmet is extremely important and can prevent serious injury.
`Most people associate injuries with traffic accidents,` said June. `Children can suffer serious head injuries just falling off their bike in the driveway.`
Although using helmets is important, there are a number of other things cyclists can do to increase their safety on the road.
Josh Poppel, executive director for the New York Bicycling Coalition, said people should remember `bicycles are vehicles in New York state so they follow the same rules.` That means bicyclists must right on the right hand side of the road with traffic and obey the lights at intersections. If cyclists are out at night, they need to be riding a bike equipped with front and rear lights.
`Using hand signals and communicating are also important. Cyclists need to properly convey their intentions so that others know what they are going to do,` said Poppel. Adding that the numbers of cyclists on the road increase during the warm weather months, Poppel encourages both cyclists and motorists to pay better attention to each other and recognize that they are sharing the roadways.
Take the sting out
June noted that bee stings become a problem for many during the summer months and for the people who have severe reactions it can be life threatening. Typically, if victims are going to have a severe reaction June said it will normally occur within the first 20 minutes. June said it is not unusual to see severe reactions in older middle age adults or senior citizens who have never had a bad reaction before. People who know they are severely allergic to bee stings should be carrying an Epi-Pen.
`It is important that people check the expiration date on the pens they are carrying,` said June. `They should be kept someplace where the victim or someone else can get to it and administer it within a few minutes.`
Keep your cool
Both June and Borden said high temperatures and high humidity can become a problem for people, particularly the very young and the very old. Borden suggests staying away from alcohol during the heat and drinking plenty of fluids to maintain hydration.
`If you have to be out, protect your skin with long sleeves and a hat. Make sure to eat. We need to maintain energy,` said Borden. He also suggested staying as cool as possible. That might mean mowing the lawn early in the morning or later in the afternoon, or stopping whatever you are doing and going into a cool place for a period of time.
`Heat exhaustion can occur within an hour of being in the sun,` said Borden, noting that many things factor into how your body responds to heat. June adds that it is necessary for people to `gauge the temperature and their activity level. Be aware of your limitations. People can be dehydrated in temperatures of 75 degrees.`
June added that the elderly may be taking medications that make them more prone to dehydration. Patients should be asking if this is a side effect to the medications they are on. If that is the case, patients simply need to be more diligent about getting the appropriate amount of fluids in their body.
`Thanks to some of the physical changes that happen as we age, older adults
can’t cool down as well as younger ones. Just as important, older people may not feel hot when the temperature is dangerously high,` said the American Geriatrics Society’s Foundation for Health in Aging. `They are also less likely to feel thirsty, even when they are almost dehydrated, which means that their bodies have lost dangerous amounts of water.`
Thunderstorms might provide a nice break from the scorching heat this summer, but they present their own list of dangers. Storms often result in power outages that can last hours or days. Everyone should have an emergency kit made up and available to them in the case of a power outage.
Calling the kit a `grab and go,` Borden said it should include enough bottled water for three days. That means one gallon of water per person per day.
Additionally you should have a battery-operated radio (complete with batteries that actually work), a blanket, medication, cash (because ATMs are unlikely to work), and a flashlight.
Borden said people should also be trained in first aid and CPR. Knowing these skills can help you save the life of someone in an emergency. While most of the people who come through the Red Cross training are there because it is mandated for their employment, Borden said the truth of the matter is that it is something everyone should know.
`When people use their first aid and CPR knowledge, it’s usually on someone they know,` said Borden.
SIDEBAR: Take cover from the sun
By JENNIFER FARNSWORTH, Contributing Writer
We hear so much this time of year about protecting ourselves from the sun’s harmful rays that we sometimes simply tune it out. After months of gray skies and chilly nights, it feels good to close your eyes and let the sun hit your face.
Forgetting that those rays are doing damage is a harmful mistake and one that experts say we will pay for one way or another.
If those ultraviolet rays do not cause skin cancer, they may cause premature aging, and while it is hip to tan when you are a young adult, many older adults will tell you that they would trade in wrinkles for a `pastier` complexion.
From protecting ourselves to protecting our children, it pays to take a little time to understand what is behind those three little letters: SPF.
`The first thing people need to understand is what an SPF actually means, and, more importantly, how it works and works properly,` said Dr. Judy Mysliborski of Capital District Dermatology.
SPF stands for sun protection factor. Mysliborski said consumers are often too preoccupied with numbers as opposed to proper application, which is what makes a product most effective.
`We encourage our patients to apply an SPF 30 sunscreen 30 minutes before sun exposure. Of course I always say it’s better to apply it late than never,` said Mysliborski.
When asked about they myth that only fair-skinned, blond-haired and blue-eyed people can burn, Mysliborski said that while it is true that fairer skinned people need to take more caution, anyone of any skin color or race is vulnerable to UV rays. She said anyone can get a sunburn.
The most obvious concern to dermatologists is skin cancer, or melanoma. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, melanoma is the second most common cancer among 20- to 29-year-old women. The academy also reports that the incidence of melanoma has increased 690 percent from 1950-2001. Mysliborski said it is best to find a product that protects against both UVA and UVB.
According to the Skin Cancer Foundation’s Photobiology Committee, UVA rays are long-wave solar rays. Because they penetrate the skin more deeply, they are less likely than UVB to cause sunburn. UVA rays, however, are responsible for wrinkling and other aging effects. When combined with UVB rays, they increase the cancer causing aspects of excessive sun exposure.
UVB are short-wave solar rays and more potent than UVA in producing sunburn. They are considered the main cause of most sun-related skin cancers.
Another important factor to consider is different protection for different stages of life. Teens may need a non-greasy formula or one without any added moisturizers. Younger children often need a product that will last through playing and swimming. A lot of products on the market for children often contain bug repellent as well sunscreen.
Dr. Theodore Talma of Latham Pediatrics said to look for a product that is sensitive for children in case it gets it into their eyes during application.
`Look for a product especially made for children because they are usually tear-free and water-resistant,` said Talma.
Pediatricians also suggest using sprays for the body and creams for the faces on children. Another tip is to keep a small bottle in older kids’ backpacks, which makes it accessible to them if parents should forget.
Older adults also need to take certain measures to care for their skin while being exposed to the sun for a long time. The American Geriatrics Society’s Foundation for Health says that seniors should stay out of excessively high temperatures and should limit their exposure to the sun.
They suggest seniors wear lightweight clothing in the summer, as well as sun hats. Another tip is stay hydrated and to read precautions on medicine labels. Since seniors tend to take medications for conditions like heart disease and diabetes, it is suggested they read the labels for information about drugs and sun exposure.
Alan Camardo, a native of Guilderland, has worked for Coppertone in California for the past few years and has seen the demands in sun care change.
He said although there is still a solid market for suntan lotions, many people are more concerned with protecting their skin.
`People are starting to care more about the aging effects of the sun as opposed to the look of a suntan,` said Camardo.
There are products on the market now that go beyond sunscreens. Mysliborski said consumers could find products that will even protect their clothing. `Sun Guard,` is a new product that is sold on the Internet. You can add a solution to your washer that will add sun protection to your sportswear. Another new item is the UV Hawk. The `hawk` is an actual sun calculator that tells you the UV index, your skin type and the temperature.
Mysliborski also recommends skincare with an SPF and sunless tanning lotions. While these products are useful it is most important to remember the average person can protect themselves by more than 90 percent by simply applying sunscreen correctly.
`Keep in mind that often you sweat it off and you swim it off. Apply sunscreen generously, apply it at the proper intervals, and you should be well-protected,` said Mysliborski.“