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Enjoy a safe summer

Allina Health doctors share summer safety tips


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Nothing says summer in the Midwest like lounging at the lake or pool, having picnics or backyard barbeques, biking, gardening and other outdoor activities. Unfortunately, injuries or illnesses that happen during those activities say, "trauma season" to many doctors.

Allina Health family medicine doctors give advice on how to enjoy summer and avoid emergencies.

Protect your skin and drink plenty of water.

"Avoid sunburn and stay hydrated. If you do those two things you’re usually covered," says  J Richard Sheely, MD, Quello Clinic. That is why he encourages his patients to use sunscreen and bring a water bottle whenever they go out for summer fun.

This summer, new sunscreen guidelines by the United States Food and Drug Administration start going into place.

"When you buy sunscreen, look for 'Broad Spectrum' and an SPF of 15 or higher on the label," says Sheely. "Reapplying sunscreen is also important."

Melanie Andros Dixon, MD, Allina Medical Clinic, agrees, "It doesn't work if you don't apply it. Put it on generously (one ounce or golf ball size for a normal-size adult body) and often."

Frequent water breaks are also important on a warm summer day. Whenever you go outdoors for an activity, bring a water bottle and have a drink of water every 20 minutes or so – whether or not you’re thirsty. “This helps prevent dehydration and heat-related problems,” says Sheely.

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Never swim alone.

Drowning is the fifth top cause of unintentional death in the United States. One out of every five persons who die from drowning are younger than 14. In Minnesota, 15 to 19 year-old males are the most common drowning victims.

"No matter how old you are, never swim alone," says Steven Bergeson, MD, Allina Medical Clinic. "Whenever kids go swimming, they need to be supervised."

Bergeson recommends swimming lessons for adults and children.

"Minnesota has nearly 12,000 lakes, plus many rivers and wetlands. Wisconsin has 15,000 lakes," he says. "When you live in a place with so much water, you’ve got to learn how to swim."

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Bug bite worries? See someone who knows you.

With muggy Midwest summers come biting and stinging insects like mosquitos, ticks, bees and wasps.

  • To keep bees or wasps from stinging, cover all food and garbage outside. Check your drinks before sipping. Avoid wearing floral prints and perfume. Shake out shoes and other clothing that's been outside. Shake a blanket out before sitting down on it.
  • To avoid tick and mosquito bites, apply an insect repellant with DEET or picaridin when you go outside. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends repellents with 30 percent DEET or 5 to 10 percent picaridin for children who are older than six months.

If you think you may have gotten sick from a mosquito or tick bite, go to your primary care provider.

"Lyme disease and West Nile virus are commons concerns related to tick and mosquito bites," says J Richard Sheely, MD, Quello Clinic. "Lyme disease is particularly difficult to diagnose, so it's best to be seen by someone who knows you and your medical history."

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Protect your head and eyes.

Every summer, Steven Bergeson, MD, Allina Medical Clinic, tells his patients to "wear a bike helmet. And if you’re going to operate power tools, use protective gear."

  • Bike helmets prevent head injuries, and even death, from cycling accidents.
  • Protective gear, like safety glasses or goggles, prevent eye injuries and vision loss.

"Lawn mowers, weed whackers and trimmers can throw a lot of stuff your way – and in your eyes," says Bergeson.

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Content Source: American Academy of Pediatrics, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Review Date: 6/14/2012
Reviewed By: Steven Bergeson, MD, medical director of quality, Allina Health

The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 9-1-1 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only—they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites.