Guest Column

Summer Safety Tips from the Westfield Rescue Squad


Greetings fellow safety supporters! As we welcome the summer season, many changes are in the air. These changes can come with some level of danger, and therefore, it is helpful to be aware of how to protect oneself and others. The largest of these changes comes from the sun and our proximity to it. 

The sun emits different forms of radiation or electromagnetic energy, which consists mostly of visible light, a small amount of ultraviolet, and some infrared light. Unfortunately, our body cannot naturally protect us from prolonged exposure to ultraviolet light. This radiation penetrates the skin and can alter our DNA, causing premature aging of the skin, and over time damage DNA that can contribute to deadly skin cancers. 

Our skin takes the brunt of sun damage and is susceptible to burns and blisters if exposed to the sun’s rays for too long. Use of proper skin protection is vital for anyone trying to keeping themselves in good health.  Sunburns are dependent on three things:  skin type, the sun’s intensity, and the length of exposure. 

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The sun’s rays are strongest between 10a.m. and 4pm, so make sure to wear sun screen or sun-protective clothing such as hats, long-sleeved shirts and pants before you head outdoors into the summer fun.  Sunscreen should have a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30, but no more than an SPF of 50, should protect against both UVA and UVB rays, and should be reapplied roughly every two hours for effectiveness.  Higher SPFs tend to lull sun-bathers into staying in the sun longer, overexposing them to UVA and UVB rays. 

Sun-bathers also assume a higher SPF will give them double the protection, while the extra protection is often negligible.  Undoubtedly, high SPF products have a higher dose of the sun-filtering chemicals than low SPF products. These chemicals seep into the skin and can damage tissue over time or cause hormone disruption, so choosing sunscreens with lower concentrations of active ingredients is more prudent. 

If you do get a sunburn, make sure to keep the burn clean so as not to cause infection.  A severe burn can cause swelling and blisters to form, and could cause symptoms associated with the flu, such as chills, nausea, headache, and weakness.  Treat the burn with cold compresses to sooth the burn and menthol or aloe gels to take the sting out of the sunburn. 

It is important to stay hydrated as well, so drink plenty of water.  The signs for dehydration include: dry mouth, reduced urination, dizziness or fatigue.  These can be serious and should be looked at by a medical doctor.  Dehydration can also be a symptom of heat stroke and heat exhaustion.  

Heat stroke and heat exhaustion are dangerous for anyone, especially the elderly, small children, and those with long-term health conditions like diabetes or a heart condition.  They are both due to excessive temperatures in a hot climate, notably in heatwaves, and can be easily brought on by strenuous physical exercise. 

Heat exhaustion occurs when you become very hot and begin loosing water or salt from your body.  Symptoms of heat exhaustion include:  headache, dizziness, profuse sweating, muscle cramps, intense thirst, fast pulse, weakness, and urinating less frequently.  If you notice someone has heat exhaustion, have them lie down in a cool place, then remove any unnecessary clothing.  Next, cool their skin with a wet sponge or use cold packs around their neck and armpits.  Fanning the skin while it is moist can also help the water to evaporate.  Lastly, get them to drink fluids, notably water or a rehydration drink. 

Most people will recover from heat exhaustion within 30 minutes.  Heat exhaustion can lead to heatstroke if not identified and treated quickly.  Heatstroke happens when the body can no longer keep itself cool and the body’s temperature rises.  Heatstroke can be life threatening from the strain it places on the brain, heart, lungs, liver and kidneys.  If the person is experiencing the more severe symptoms of heatstroke, such as confusion, disorientation, seizures, or loss of consciousness, call 911, follow the treatment for heat exhaustion, and place the person in the recovery position until help arrives. 

One of the last potential dangers of summer is bugs. To fend off the pesky critters during your outdoor activities, it is important to note what attracts them.  Warm, stagnate pools of water are notorious breeding grounds for mosquitos, so make sure to empty or turn over anything that can collect water during a storm.  If you are trying to keep the bugs from biting or stinging you, there are a few known natural remedies rather than spraying yourself with toxic chemicals from store bought repellants.  The best natural repellants are essential oils like eucalyptus, lavender, peppermint and citronella.  Be mindful that essential oils are not recommended for use on children under 3 years of age or women who are pregnant or nursing. 

Also, it is important to perform a patch test to check for allergic reaction before using an essential oil for the first time.  Another useful trick is to place a dryer sheet in your pocket while you are hiking, camping, or gardening to keep the bugs away.  Eating garlic can also be a natural repellent for bugs, but that may keep more than just the bugs away.

Hopefully, with these helpful tips, everyone can have a safe and fun-filled summer.  Enjoy it and be sure to spread these safety tips far and wide, fellow safety supporters!

The opinions expressed herein are the writer's alone, and do not reflect the opinions of or anyone who works for is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the writer. Click here to submit a Guest Column.

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