By: Dr. Buck Parker, M.D.
Heat stroke and sun poisoning are huge problems in the summer when temperatures often times go above 100 degrees and people spend too much time outside. In fact, if you saw the premiere of NBC’s new hit reality show ‘The Island,’ Dr. Buck Parker, a trauma surgeon and one of the stars of the show, had to treat Taylor, his fellow competitor, for massive dehydration due to a lack of water and exposure to the sun.
While most of us aren’t trapped on a deserted island without water, sun poisoning and dehydration victims flood emergency rooms in the summer. To prevent this from happening to you or your children, here are tips to stay safe in the sun this summer:
- Drink plenty of water. It goes without saying that we need to rehydrate the body and replenish those lost fluids when we perspire in the heat. You can also ensure your kids are extra hydrated by having them drink prior to long exposure to the outdoors. Adults should avoid too many alcoholic beverages and coffee as these drinks can dehydrate the body.
- Take breaks. Kids love to run around outside whether at the beach or when playing in a neighbor’s yard. But take small breaks of five to 10 minutes to cool down, rest and replenish. Pace yourself and try not to overwork your body in the heat.
- Avoid the most intense time of the day. The sun is usually strongest between 10am-4pm. If possible, go outside in the early morning as the sun is rising or in the evening when the sun is setting.
- Load up on the sunblock. This is extremely important for everyone as too much exposure to sun can lead to sun poisoning in the short term and even skin cancer in the long run. If sweating or swimming, reapply sunscreen every two hours and don’t forget your ears, nose and neck. At a minimum, use an SPF 30 to protect yourself. Men with thinning hair should apply sunscreen to their scalp.
- Get help immediately. If anyone feels lightheaded, dizzy or short of breath; if skin bubbles and appears beyond burnt; and if pus or other discharge is leaking from the skin, seek emergency help immediately.
- Use protective gear. In addition to sunscreen, always wear a hat and sunglasses that wrap around and block as close to 100% of both UVA and UVB rays as possible. Consider wearing a rash guard to protect the upper body from the sun. When outside, sit in the shade when possible or under an umbrella.
- Check your medications. Some medicines like antibiotics and acne cream can greatly increase the skin’s sensitivity to the sun. Always check with your doctor or pharmacists if you or your children are taking any prescription medications and find out if you should avoid the sun.
- Always have a swim buddy. If you’re visiting the beach, always adhere to posted signs and warnings such as rip tides or jellyfish. When swimming far from shore, always partner with a swim buddy and lookout for one another. Never leave children unattended for even a minute.
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