Spring Break is finally here!
It’s time to forget about work and school and take a week of relaxation and enjoy the warmer days ahead. But wait – before you cool off in the water or get ready for a delicious picnic, check out these safety tips so your fun-filled break doesn’t include a trip to the hospital emergency room.
Keep your cool and drink lots of water to avoid heat-related illness. Don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink. “Heat cramps, often caused by dehydration, can progress to heat exhaustion and potentially fatal heat stroke,” explains Ranjit Grewal, MD, Family Medicine physician on the medical staff at Cypress Fairbanks Medical Center Hospital. To protect your-self against the heat, stay indoors as much as possible, wear loose-fitting, lightweight clothes; eat well-balanced, light meals; and avoid strenuous work during extreme heat.
Be water wise and teach your children to swim. At the pool, swim under lifeguard supervision and obey all rules. Stay away from water intakes, drains or filters in pools and hot tubs since long hair or clothing could become entangled. At the lake, river or beach, swim only in designated areas. Don’t dive into shallow water and risk neck injuries or paralysis. If you get caught in an ocean current, swim parallel to shore and wait for the current to lessen.
Bake a cake, not your skin. Everyone needs some sun exposure. The emphasis is on “some” because too much sun can cause skin cancer, eye problems, weakened immune system, prematurely aged skin or unsightly skin spots.
“People with fair hair and complexion, or a personal or family history of skin cancer are at greatest risk of sunburn,” says Dr. Grewal. But regardless of skin color, everyone can take steps to be sun smart.
· Do not use sunscreen on babies under six months old. Keep them out of the sun whenever possible or use an umbrella to create shade.
· Try to stay out of the sun when rays are strongest, typically from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Don’t be fooled by a cloudy day. Up to 80 percent of rays can penetrate even on an overcast day and reflect off water, sand and concrete.
· Wear long-sleeve shirts, long pants and a hat to cover the skin and protect against harmful UV rays.
· Apply a generous amount of broad spectrum sunscreen that has an SPF of 15 or higher approximately 15 to 30 minutes before going outside. “Remember your lips, hands, ears, feet, shoulders, behind your neck and top of your head if you don’t have much hair,” reminds Dr. Grewal. Throw away suntan lotion that is past the expiration date or more than three years old.
· If around water or swimming, select waterproof or water resistant sunscreen that stays on skin longer. However, you will still need to reapply sunscreen every two to three hours, as recommended by the American Academy of Dermatology.
· Protect your eyes with sunglasses that offer 99 to 100 percent UV protection.
· “Check if any medications can increase sun sensitivity, such as antibiotics or acne medications. Sunscreen may not be able to protect skin from sun sensitivity caused by medications,” urges Dr. Grewal.
· If you use an indoor tanning bed, wear goggles and do not go over your time limit.
· “Check your skin regularly for signs of skin cancer. See your doctor if you notice anything unusual,” Dr. Grewal says.
If you do get sunburned, try taking a cool bath or shower, applying aloe gel or other soothing lotion, or taking aspirin or ibuprofen to reduce inflammation. “Redness and pain associated with sunburn may not appear immediately, but you could feel the effects of blisters and peeling skin for days,” explains Dr. Grewal. “Severe reactions, which can include fever, chills, nausea or rash, may require medical attention.”
Enjoy a juicy slice of watermelon, dive into a cool pool and build your best sandcastle. You can’t remove all the risks but by putting safety first and following a few simple steps, you can enjoy your summer and make lots of happy memories.
And if an accident does happen, Cy-Fair Hospital’s emergency room is available 24-hours a day to get you and your family back on track for summer fun.
For more information about protecting your skin in the sun, talk with your doctor or call 800-681-2733 for a free referral to a physician near you.