Summer is around the corner and so are all the outdoor activities that come with it, like hiking wildflower-studded trails, puttering around in the garden, going on picnics, and taking the kids to the beach.
But all that fun in the sun can come at a price if you don't take the right precautions. To keep your summer as healthy and happy as possible, keep the following in mind.
Always wear sunscreen
The summer months are when you're most likely to get a sunburn, even on a cloudy day, and it's best to stay out of the sun during the peak hours of 10 am and 3 pm. When you do go outside, choose a hat with a wide brim, protective clothing, and a water-resistant, broad-spectrum sunblock, with an SPF of 30 or higher, which you should re-apply often. Keeping these habits is your best bet to preventing common but deadly skin cancers like melanoma.
Dehydration can cause numerous ailments, from fatigue and weakness to body cramps and headaches. "Just like the oil in your car engine, it's important to keep your water levels topped up too," says Dr. Janette Nesheiwat, CityMD Medical Director of Manhattan. "Aim to drink at least half an ounce of water for each pound you weigh, in addition to eating a well-balanced diet with lots of fruits and vegetables."
Drinking lots of water—even if you don't feel thirsty—can also stave off heat exhaustion and its potentially fatal cousin, heatstroke. Watch for signs such as muscle cramps, fatigue/weakness, nausea, and vomiting, and move immediately to a cool area if any symptoms do occur. "Apply cool, wet towels, take a cool shower, and drink water or sports beverages to recover," suggests Dr. Kriya Patel, a member of Summit Health's internal medicine team.
Supervise children near the water
Water safety is critical, especially when you have young children. Never let them swim unattended, even in designated safe swim areas, and make sure they are wearing their life jackets. Consider getting training in basic CPR, and, if you have a pool at home, put a fence around it that's at least four feet tall, says Dr. Patel.
Planning to practice your cannonball dive this summer? Remember to always enter the water feet first to avoid serious injuries. Keep in mind that swimming in the lake or ocean is always more difficult than at a pool. And stay away from alcohol, no matter where you choose to swim.
Ward off bug bites
While most bug bites are harmless, some can spread dangerous diseases like dengue, Lyme disease, and malaria. Stop the critters in their tracks by using insect repellant with 20-30 percent DEET on any exposed skin and clothing. If you venture into wooded or grassy areas, wear long sleeves and pants, and avoid perfume.
You can treat bites with over-the-counter anti-itch cream, an oral antihistamine, painkillers like acetaminophen or ibuprofen, or even an ice pack, applied for 10 to 15 minutes, three to four times per day. If you end up getting bit by a tick, don't panic, says Dr. Patel. "Get a pair of fine-tipped tweezers, grasp the tick as close to your skin's surface as possible and pull upwards with a steady, even pressure without twisting or jerking it."
Afterward, you should clean the bite and your hands with rubbing alcohol or soap and water, she says. Dispose of the tick by putting it in alcohol, placing it in a sealed container, wrapping it tightly in tape, or flushing it down the toilet. In the following weeks, monitor yourself carefully for any rashes, fevers, fatigue, joint pain, or swelling and see a doctor if any of these symptoms occur.
Focus on prevention
While the staff at Summit Health and CityMD do treat common ailments like burns, skin irritations, and dehydration, prevention is the best medicine. Take these proactive tips to keep yourself safe both in the water and on land!