In Wisconsin, our summers are hard-earned. After a long, cold winter, we want to enjoy the precious warm weather and longer days to the fullest. But along with joys, the season can bring its share of injuries, maladies, and safety risks.
To help keep you and your family well and savoring the summer, Dr. Cynthia Fisher, a Family Medicine Physician at ThedaCare Physicians-Oshkosh, shares some of the top summer health and safety concerns, tips for how to avoid them, and advice on what you can do if you encounter them.
Swimming injuries and drownings
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, drowning is a leading cause of death for children, with more children between the ages of 1 and 4 dying from drowning than any other cause of death except birth defects.
Dr. Fisher offers these water safety tips:
- If you go into a body of water, be aware of your surroundings and make sure you have a way to get out
- Swim with a buddy
- For children who don’t know how to swim, it’s best for parents or caregivers to provide one-to-one coverage
- When watching a child who’s swimming, keep your eyes on the child and nothing else
“Drowning is silent. People don’t normally call for help,” Dr. Fisher says. “They’re struggling and trying to keep their head above water, and sometimes they’re too afraid to call out because their head is barely above the water.”
A scorching sunburn can bring suffering after a day outdoors if you’re not careful.
To avoid getting burned, follow these tips from Dr. Fisher:
- You can apply sunscreen to children starting at 6 months of age
- Use an SPF of 30 to 50; an SPF of greater than 50 provides a negligible increase in protection from UV rays, according to the American Academy of Dermatology
- Exercise extra caution during the peak sun hours of 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
- Reapply sunscreen throughout the day, especially if you’re swimming and doing outdoor activities — and remember that being on the water creates more reflection of the sun’s rays
- Wear sunscreen daily year-round
- Don’t forget to apply sunscreen to areas such as the scalp, ears, lips, and bridge of the nose
- Wear a hat and cover up with clothing when possible
- Stay well-hydrated
- If you do get sunburned, cover the area with a moisturizer such as aloe vera and apply cool packs
- If burns blister, consult your provider
Summer can bring extreme heat, and with that comes a risk for dehydration.
“With us all trying to be more ecologically friendly, I think a lot of us do have water bottles now,” Dr. Fisher says. “Always carry a water bottle and make sure you have something to drink. If you’re thirsty, you’re probably behind.”
- On especially hot days, stay out of the sun and ensure you have access to water
- Dehydration can happen quickly on extremely hot days, so stay on top of hydrating
- Older individuals should exercise extra caution, and people should check in on their older loved ones and neighbors to ensure they’re staying safe on hot days
Fireworks are popular on Independence Day and throughout the summer. While fun, they can be dangerous if not used properly.
To avoid burns and fires, follow these guidelines:
- Don’t let children light fireworks
- Supervise children with sparklers
- Be careful in dry areas, and dispose of sparklers and fireworks in a proper receptacle
- Don’t place sparklers on the ground where someone could step on them
Bike and boating safety
To stay safe while enjoying biking, boating and ATV/UTV riding, wear the proper protective gear, Dr. Fisher says. Even if you feel safe riding, biking or boating, you can’t control what other people are doing and what’s happening around you, so don’t risk it.
“It’s not just children who should wear helmets and life vests. Adults should too. We should be creating good examples for our kids,” Dr. Fisher says.
Follow these steps:
- Wear a proper helmet for bike and ATV/UTV riding
- Both children and adults should wear a life vest on boats and when participating in activities such as tubing and waterskiing
From mosquitoes to horse flies to ticks, we have plenty of biting creatures in Wisconsin. Take steps to avoid discomfort and insect-borne illnesses.
Dr. Fisher offers this guidance:
- DEET-containing products are best for preventing mosquito and tick bites
- Don’t use a DEET/sunscreen combo product; DEET can only be applied once per day, while sunscreen should be applied multiple times per day
- If you’re seeking a natural product, oil of lemon eucalyptus has been proven effective for repelling insects, but don’t use it on children younger than 3, according to the CDC
- It’s not just forests and wooded areas that are cause for concern but also long grass
- Wear long pants and tuck them into your socks when hiking, and stay on marked trails
- After you’ve been outdoors, check your whole body for tick bites before going to bed, and have another person check hard-to-reach spots if possible
No matter the summer health concern, Dr. Fisher says it’s always best to check with your health care team when in doubt. At ThedaCare, it’s easy to access care with options including virtual care, urgent care, and same-day appointments at your primary care provider’s clinic.