7 Summer Safety Tips

Smart solutions for summer health problems

poison oaks and ivy

Bug bites, scrapes, rashes, and other summer health problems can put a damper on fun. Luckily, most of these minor problems can be fixed with easy solutions. Try these tips from Daniel Spogen, MD, of the American Academy of Family Physicians. Here’s what to do for:

Bug Bites
If you’re going to be spending a lot of time outdoors, wear bug repellent and protective clothing like long sleeves. If you get bitten, take an antihistamine, or rub an antihistamine cream on the bite. The bite should heal after 3 or 4 days, Dr. Spogen says. If days pass and it looks worse, it’s best to check with your doctor.

The most common rashes during this time of year are from poison ivy or poison oak. Wear protective clothing if you’re going to be in heavily wooded areas. Try to avoid “leaves of three.” Poison ivy has pointed leaves in groups of three, and poison oak has rounded leaves in groups of three. When you go inside, wash your skin thoroughly. If you develop a rash, resist the urge to scratch. That spreads the rash. Apply an ice pack, and take an antihistamine pill or rub on a hydrocortisone cream. If the rash doesn’t improve after 3 days, see a doctor.

Cuts and Scrapes
Even when you’re careful, you can’t always avoid cuts and scrapes. You need two things to heal: moisture and bandages. Apply antibiotic ointment to the wound before applying the bandage, and change the bandage as often as needed. “Drying out delays healing,” Dr. Spogen says.

Food Poisoning
Don’t leave your potato salad on the picnic table too long. Too much heat and sun can cause bacteria to form, Dr. Spogen says. Avoid eating any food that has been sitting out in the sun for more than 2 hours or more than 1 hour if it’s warmer than 90°F. To settle an upset stomach, take small sips of ginger ale.

Swimmer’s Ear
Splashing around in a pool is fun, but water that becomes trapped in your ear isn’t. In fact, it can lead to infection. To keep your ears dry, dilute rubbing alcohol with white vinegar, and put a couple of drops in each ear.

You need sunscreen anytime you’re out in the sun, not just when you’re swimming. Choose waterproof, broad-spectrum sunscreen of at least SPF 30. Apply 15 minutes before going out. Reapply every 2 hours, or more often if you’re swimming or sweating. If you start looking red, head indoors, and take an anti-inflammatory medicine like ibuprofen, Dr. Spogen says. Apply a cooling lotion to soothe skin and keep it moisturized.

In warm weather, you may lose more water than you realize. Keep drinking fluids, even if you don’t feel thirsty. Eating water-rich foods, like fruits and vegetables, can also help you stay hydrated. If you have a dry mouth or dark urine, you may be dehydrated. If you become confused, have shortness of breath, or have a fast pulse, go to the emergency room or call 911 right away.