- - Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Schools are closing, pools are opening and BBQs are firing up as we start our summer in the greatest way by saluting in honor and remembrance the men and women (as well as the families of those) who died while serving in our U.S. military. Originally called Decoration Day, our Memorial Day has become synonymous with the beginning of summer by celebrating this time with barbecues, outdoor cooking, camping, and the takeoff of summer fun.
Summer is a season that seems to double the opportunities for enjoyment – but it is also known as a time that can increase injuries and accidents. Here are some helpful tips, facts and reminders to help us have a safe, enjoyable and injury-free summer.

Dr. Nina’s What You Need to Know: About Summer Safety
Heat exhaustion and dehydration. As temperatures rise, our bodies keep cool by sweating and evaporating water into the environment—heat is transferred in this manner. However, we can quickly become dehydrated if we do not replenish it. Make sure to drink plenty of water, avoid sugary and energy drinks or alcohol, and find refuge in air-conditioned areas.

Signs of dehydration can include headache, dizziness, confusion, and a fast heart rate. One of the first signs of heat exhaustion is leg cramping. Use it is an indicator that it is time to take a “time out” and seek medical treatment.

Driving safety. As millions of Americans return from road trips this holiday, let’s make sure that all passengers buckle up (and continue to do so all-year round). Experts agree that this is one of the most effective measures we can take to protect ourselves and those riding with us. In fact, it is estimated that every year seat belts save over 13,000 lives in motor vehicle accidents.

And, too, avoid distracted driving which contributes to well over a million car crashes and 16 percent of fatal accidents every year. Some common vehicle activities that can cause a driver to take their eyes off the road or hands off the wheel include using a cell phone, eating, drinking, grooming, reading (including maps), operating a navigation system, or watching a video. Accidents can happen in nanoseconds.

And if we decide to enjoy an alcoholic drink, designating a driver who is not drinking should be as automatic as buckling our seat belts. Every year, there are over 10,000 completely preventable, unnecessary, and tragic deaths due to drunk driving.

Water safety. Every year, approximately 3,000 Americans die from drowning. To decrease this, always use the buddy system when swimming; even at a public pool or beach where there is a lifeguard. Remember that young children should never, ever, EVER be left unsupervised around water. Kids can drown before we know it. In fact, studies show that most children who drown were out of their parent’s sight for less than 5 minutes! And, if we cannot see what we’re jumping into, we shouldn’t jump. Hitting a submerged rock or shallow bottom can cause tragedy, including paralysis or drowning after becoming unconscious.

Helmet Safety. Head injuries resulting from skateboarding, bicycling or rollerblading are also more common in summer. Helmets, which are legally required for children, are a good idea for everyone. Research shows that a very high percentage of brain injuries can be prevented by wearing a helmet.

Food safety. Memorial Day barbecues and get-togethers are a tradition for millions across the nation. But be aware that improperly cooked or stored foods can make us sick to our stomachs. Meat products such as hamburgers and hot dogs should always be cooked thoroughly. Make sure, also, to wash our hands with soap and warm water before handling food and after touching raw meat. And, use separate utensils, dishes, and cutting boards for raw/uncooked meats to avoid cross-contamination of bacteria.
When it comes to perishable foods, refrigerate them within two hours and keep the mayonnaise and products with mayonnaise (salads, coleslaw) out of the sun for longer than 15 minutes.

Lyme disease. The bacteria causing Lyme disease is transmitted to humans by tick bites; and ticks are most active between the months of April to September. The good news is that with proper precautions, Lyme disease can be prevented. When possible avoid bushy or wooded areas with high grass and leaf litter. If you cannot, make sure to walk in the center of a trail; wear protective clothing such as long-sleeved shirts and pants that can tuck into our socks; and use 20-30 percent DEET (repellant) on clothing and exposed skin.
And, too, after returning from outdoor hiking or even routine backyard excursions, conduct a full-body tick check. If you have been bit by a tick, don’t panic—it takes between 36-48 hours to transmit the bacteria. Remove the tick promptly with tweezers and seek medical treatment if you observe symptoms (e.g., bull’s eye rash, fatigue).

Sun safety. A single bad sunburn can increase our risk for melanoma by approximately 50 percent. Make sure to use barriers (sunglasses, wide brim hats, protective clothing); seek out the shade; and apply broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher. Sunscreen should be applied 30 minutes before going outside and reapplied every 2 hours or immediately after swimming or excessive sweating.

And while I have said it before, it bears repeating, this Memorial Day, as we enjoy our freedoms and treasured times with family and friends…let us openly share our honor and gratitude for the empty seats at tables throughout our USA. The great sacrifices made by the men and women of our Armed Forces have allowed us our way of life.

May this weekend be a beautiful time of remembrance – and start of a beautiful, safe summer season.

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