Schools out, the sun's shining and it's full speed ahead with celebrations. To make sure the "fun" stays in summer fun, though, you'll need to take a few simple precautions.
If you're out in the sun
Sun exposure is the biggest cause of skin cancer, but the good news is that it's easy to protect yourself.
Everyone, regardless of complexion or ethnicity, needs to use at least an SPF 15 sunscreen if they plan to be outside longer than 20 minutes. SPF, by the way, stands for Sun Protection Factor. The higher the number, the more protection the sunscreen provides. If you're fair skinned or burn easily, you'll want a higher SPF.
These days, many makeups, moisturizers, lip balms and lotions include the minimum recommended SPF 15.
Apply sunscreen 20 to 30 minutes before going out. If you're going to be out for a while or if you're going to get wet or sweaty, reapply every two hours. Even "waterproof" sunscreen begins losing its effectiveness after 80 minutes of swimming or sweating.
Look for a product that provides broad-spectrum protection. It will say on the label that it protects against UVA and UVB rays.
Spray versus lotion? Both protect equally well, though you wind up wasting spray when it drifts off in the breeze. The up side of a spray: It's easier to apply to wiggly kids!
If you're in a risk group – a pale complexion, many freckles or a history of blistering burns – keep a close watch on changes in moles or any new ones that develop. It's hard to tell the difference between a harmless change and one that could lead to cancer. At Doctors Care, our physicians can help you decide if you need to see a specialist.
If you're headed for the water
Make friends with the buddy system. No one should dive in alone – even experienced swimmers can run into unexpected trouble.
Take extra precautions around rivers and at the ocean – changing tides and currents can turn yesterday's placid pool into a challenge for even the strongest of swimmers.
Make sure that kids and new swimmers wear Coast Guard approved life jackets – arm floats aren't enough, particularly at the lake, river or beach.
The best water protection for you family is making sure everyone knows how to swim. Check for local classes and enroll your kids.
If you're out and about in the woods
Keep the calamine lotion on hand. It's helpful for everything from mosquito and chigger bites to poison ivy and poison oak. It's not a cure – but, then, neither is that old myth about suffocating chiggers with nail polish – but it will make you feel better.
Insect spray with DEET can help keep bugs at bay. Apply it after you apply sunscreen.
Insect bites – bee stings especially – can occasionally cause severe allergic reactions. These can take place up to two hours after the bite or sting. Call 911 or seek medical attention if someone experiences dizziness, trouble breathing or hives.
Be sure to check for ticks after outings in wooded areas.
If your plans include a picnic
Make sure your food is as chilled as your outing. Anything that's been out of the refrigerator or the cooler for more than two hours isn't safe to eat.
If you don't want to tote coolers, think of foods that are safe without refrigeration: Dried fruit, canned tuna or meat, sandwich bread and unpeeled fruit.
Make sure that what should be hot is hot enough. Grilling can be tricky, because meat that browns quickly on the outside but might not be thoroughly cooked on the inside. Use a thermometer to make sure everything is done enough to kill potentially dangerous bacteria. That's a minimum of 160 degrees for beef or 170 for poultry.
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