School is out, the Independence Day holiday weekend is fast approaching and summer is in full swing. That makes this a great time to review some basic summer safety recommendations for people of all ages.
“The unseasonably hot temperatures we experienced in early June provided an important reminder to be aware of heat-related illnesses,” said Long Nguyen, DO, family medicine practitioner at ThedaCare Physicians-Wautoma. “Heat stroke and heat exhaustion can come on quickly when we are not acclimated to hot weather, as this recent heat wave has shown. Heat stroke, especially, can become serious and damage the heart, brain and other organs if not recognized and treated.”
Heat kills more than 600 people in the United States each year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports, adding that extreme heat poses the greatest risk to children under the age of 4 and adults over age 65.
Heat stroke and heat exhaustion present different symptoms, Dr. Nguyen said. A person is in heatstroke when their core temperature exceeds 104ºF and they are experiencing dysfunction of the central nervous system.
Symptoms of heatstroke can include:
- Red, hot and dry skin with no sweating
- Rapid or strong pulse
- Throbbing headache
- Upset stomach
- Dizziness, confusion, irritability or lost consciousness
“If heat stroke is suspected, call 911 immediately, move the person into a cooler place, lower the person’s temperature by using cool, damp cloths, ice packs or immersing them in a cool bath,” said Dr. Nguyen. “Please do not give the person anything to drink as they can’t safely consume anything while their consciousness is altered.”
Heat exhaustion typically presents as heavy sweating, cold, pale and clammy skin, a fast, but weak pulse, nausea, muscle cramps, tiredness or weakness and a headache. A victim of heat exhaustion may also pass out.
“When heat exhaustion is suspected, get the person to a cool place, loosen clothes and try to lower the person’s temperature,” said Dr. Nguyen. “If the person begins throwing up or the symptoms last more than an hour, then it’s time to seek medical attention.”
Dehydration is a major factor in causing both heat stroke and heat exhaustion.
“That underscores the importance of everyone drinking water regularly when outside during the summer months,” Dr. Nguyen stressed. “By the time you are feeling thirsty, you are already on the road to dehydration.”
He noted that caffeine and alcohol consumption promote dehydration. Additionally, some prescription medicines can increase the likelihood of heat-related illness or increase sensitivity to sun exposure. He recommends checking with your provider or pharmacist if you have concerns.
After heat-related illnesses, sunburn becomes a significant concern as it can lead to skin cancer over time or bad sunburns immediately. The CDC notes that unprotected skin can burn in as little as 15 minutes, and it may take 12 hours for the sunburn to appear. Wearing a broad-spectrum sunscreen (which protects against UVA and UVB rays), a hat and a lightweight long-sleeve shirt will help prevent sunburns, Dr. Nguyen noted.
“The sun protection factor (SPF) of a sunscreen is an important number to understand; a higher SPF number doesn’t protect your skin any more than a lower number, it just protects it longer,” he advised. “Sunscreen should be applied 30 minutes before going into the sun and then every two hours while in the sun or more often if swimming or sweating heavily.”
He highlighted the importance of covering ears with a hat and/or sunscreen.
“Ears are a common place for skin cancer to develop, so protecting them is important,” he said. “Don’t forget to wear UV-blocking sunglasses to protect your eyes and make sure all family members wear them.”
Wisconsin offers lots of water activities to help us keep cool and enjoy good times with family and friends. There are key safety precautions to take if you and loved ones will be around water over the holiday.
“Statistics show that young children are more likely to drown in family pools whereas older children and teens are more likely to drown in ponds, rivers or lakes,” Dr. Nguyen observed. “Having a ‘water watcher’ – someone who is responsible for keeping an eye on everyone in the water – is a good practice. You can trade off that role, but having someone in that role at all times is a good safety rule.”
When boating, canoeing or kayaking, Dr. Nguyen stressed the importance of following boating rules and regulations, especially ensuring there’s a lifejacket on board for each person. He also warned about the dangers of water and alcohol.
“Alcohol and boating don’t mix,” he said. “Whoever is driving the boat should not be drinking, and drinking and swimming can be as dangerous as drinking and driving.”
The Fourth of July weekend is a prime time for people to enjoy fireworks. The easing of some COVID-19 restrictions may result in many communities holding fireworks displays again. It is often the use of fireworks at home that raises the most concern. The National Fire Protection Associations reports that fireworks cause more than 50,000 fires every year.
Some basic fireworks guidelines from the National Safety Council:
- Only light legal fireworks on the ground in areas that are fire resistant.
- Keep spectators at a safe distance.
- Always wear eye protection when lighting fireworks.
- Don’t point fireworks or sparklers at anyone.
- Don’t attempt to relight a “dud.”
- Don’t allow small children to handle fireworks.
- Alcohol and fireworks don’t mix; whoever is lighting the fireworks should not be drinking alcohol.
- Always keep a fire extinguisher, water hose or buckets of water nearby.
Dr. Nguyen also noted that it is a good practice to provide hearing protection for babies and toddlers in noisy situations.
“While some people enjoy the loud noise of fireworks, parade bands or concerts, not everyone does, and that level of noise can be damaging to the ears of babies,” he said. “There are a lot of ear protection devices available that can eliminate that concern.”
Mosquitoes are frequent visitors during summer months. Luckily, mosquito repellents can reduce their annoyance. Dr. Nguyen cautioned it is important to follow the directions for their use, especially on younger children.
Ticks are another reality here in Wisconsin, with the population of deer ticks increasing regularly.
“Deer ticks carry a number of diseases in addition to Lyme disease, so avoiding ticks becoming attached is an important precaution,” Dr. Nguyen said. “DEET products offer good protection when applied on the skin, and Permethrin products can be applied to clothing to discourage ticks from crawling up pant legs, etc. Again, be sure to follow the directions for use.”
“Ticks are everywhere, even in our backyards sometimes, so being attentive to the possibility of a tick becoming attached is good preventive behavior,” he said. “Be sure to do a thorough tick check of all family members and pets after outdoor activities.”
While COVID-19 activity has lessened in Wisconsin in recent weeks, the COVID-19 virus is still circulating and the pandemic is not over.
“It’s still wise to keep COVID safety in mind,” Dr. Nguyen said. “New, more contagious variants continue to arise and spread throughout the world, including here in the U.S., so we should not abandon COVID precautions completely.”
Those who are fully vaccinated can generally resume most activities without wearing a mask or social distancing, except where required by federal, state, tribal or local laws. Those who are not fully vaccinated should continue to follow the guidelines of wearing masks indoors when mixing with people other than their immediate family, practicing social distancing and washing their hands frequently.
Dr. Nguyen reminded parents that youth aged 12-18 are now eligible to be vaccinated with the Pfizer vaccine, and he encouraged them to follow through with getting those youth fully vaccinated. Meanwhile, younger children still need to follow COVID-19 precautions such as masking, distancing and washing hands frequently.
“Summer is a great opportunity for children and adults to enjoy more leisure time and outdoor activities with family and friends,” said Dr. Nguyen. “Let’s continue to keep safety in mind while preparing for and participating in such festivities.”
For more than 110 years, ThedaCare® has been committed to improving the health of the communities it serves in northeast and central Wisconsin. The organization delivers care to more than 600,000 residents in 18 counties and employs approximately 7,000 health care professionals. ThedaCare has 180 points of care, including seven hospitals. As an organization committed to being a leader in Population Health, team members are dedicated to empowering people to live their best lives through easy access to individualized care, supporting each person’s own health and wellbeing. ThedaCare also partners with communities to understand unique needs, finding solutions together, and encouraging health awareness and action. ThedaCare is the first in Wisconsin to be a Mayo Clinic Care
Network Member, giving specialists the ability to consult with Mayo Clinic experts on a patient’s care. ThedaCare is a not-for-profit health system with a level II trauma center, comprehensive cancer treatment, stroke and cardiac programs, as well as primary care. For more information, visit thedacare.org or follow ThedaCare on social media. Members of the media should call Cassandra Wallace, Public and Media Relations Consultant at 920.442.0328 or the ThedaCare Regional Medical Center-Neenah switchboard at 920.729.3100 and ask for the marketing person on call.