It feels so good to be able to shed our heavy winter clothes and get out and enjoy the nice summer weather. If you live in an area where cold weather hinders outdoor activities, you may need a quick refresher on staying safe in the summer sun. Here are some suggestions.

Sunscreen

Everyone, regardless of skin color, should wear sunscreen. More than 3.5 million skin cancers are diagnosed annually and a good number of these cases could have been prevented.  When selecting a sunscreen, choose one that is Sun Protection Factor (SPF) 30 or higher, water-resistant and offers broad-spectrum protection (protects against UVA and UVB rays).

Additionally, protect your skin by wearing sunglasses, a wide-brimmed hat and long sleeves whenever possible.  Stay in the shade and try to avoid being in the sun between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.

Stay Hydrated

It seems like a no-brainer but it’s important to take in enough fluids during the summer months, especially on particularly hot days or when you are really exerting yourself.  Water, of course, is the best way to stay hydrated but many of the seasonal fruits, including watermelons, also contain large amounts of water.  Popsicles can also help.

Believe it or not, drinking too much water can lead to water intoxication, a potentially fatal condition. Try to maintain a balance, drink when you feel dry or thirsty and look for signs of heat exhaustion (fatigue, dizziness, nausea, weakness, muscle cramps and an increase in body temperature).

Check for Ticks

Being outside increases the risk of coming in contact with ticks, especially in grassy or heavily wooded areas.  As a result, your chances of contracting Lyme disease increases greatly during the summer months.  Usually, the first sign is a bull’s eye-shaped red area or rash that appears in the area that has been bitten by the infected tick.  Sometimes, the rash is accompanied by headache, fatigue, body aches and fever.

It might surprise you to know that, when left untreated, Lyme disease can actually lead to some very serious conditions including Bell’s palsy and meningitis.  Fortunately, treatment is very simple (two weeks of antibiotics) and is most effective when the disease is caught early.

Avoid Food Poisoning

Summertime just doesn’t feel right without a cookout or a picnic.  While it’s fun, those types of meals also come with increased risk of food poisoning.  Make sure that everyone washes their hands before handling food.  Cook meat to the recommended internal temperature and don’t eat food that has been left out at room temperature for more than two hours.

Don’t Drink and Drive

Beach parties, graduations, weddings and other social gatherings are very common during the summer and it can be tempting to indulge in a little alcohol.  How you choose to have fun is your choice but deciding to get behind the wheel of your car while impaired can affect many lives.  Pick a designated driver and/or locate the number of a local taxi service in advance so that you won’t feel stuck if you find yourself unable to safely drive home.

That carefree feeling that only comes in summer is something we all wait all year to experience.  Make sure you take the necessary precautions to keep yourself safe and the good times rolling.