Hey Boo-Boo! If you haven’t taken your pic-a-nic basket out for a spin yet, there’s still plenty of summer left. Whether you’re heading to a family outing in Jellystone Park or a romantic al fresco meal for two, you’ll be smarter than the average bear with these health and safety tips from Alegent Health Clinic family physicians Ryan Isherwood, M.D., Karen Staack, M.D., and Bob Kent, M.D.
When playing in the sun, keep slathering on the sunscreen
Keep your family safe by limiting their sun exposure – from length of time to time of day.
"You can get sunburn in just 15 minutes, and the worst time of day to be out is when the sun is highest in the sky," said Ryan Isherwood, M.D., family physician with Alegent Health Clinic in Gretna. "When you will be in the sun for an extended period of time, use sunscreen, wear light cotton clothing that covers most of your skin and make good use of shade."
Avoid direct exposure to midday sun between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. to reduce exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays and apply sunscreen with an SPF (sun protection factor) of 30 or higher - often.
"Don’t forget to apply sun protection to your lips," said Dr. Isherwood. "Every year I see three to four people that have severe sunburns to the lips because they did not apply sunscreen to these areas."
Q: When do I need to apply sunscreen?
A: Sunscreen is not an exact science. Protection depends on how you apply it. As a rule of thumb, says Dr. Isherwood, generously apply sunscreen before you go outside. Remember that its effectiveness is decreased by wind, heat, humidity and altitude So reapply it if you stay out in the sun for more than 2 hours and after you swim or work up a sweat.
Q: How can I treat sunburn so I can heal quickly?
A: There's no fast-fix for sunburn. Once you have it, the damage is done. It may take 12 to 24 hours after sun exposure to know the full extent of the sunburn, and several days more for your skin to begin healing. Here are some tips:
- Apply cold compresses, such as a towel dampened with cool water, to the affected skin. Or take a cool bath.
- Apply aloe or moisturizing cream to the affected skin. Avoid products containing alcohol, which can further dry out skin.
- If blisters form, don’t break them. That will only slow the healing process and increase the risk of infection. If necessary, lightly cover blisters with gauze.
- If you need help handling the pain of a sunburn, adults can take aspirin and ibuprofen. Advil and Motrin are safe for the whole family when taken according to the label instructions.
- Avoid sunburn products containing anesthetics, such as benzocaine, which has not proven to be effective. It can irritate the skin and has been linked to a dangerous condition that decreases the amount of oxygen that the blood can carry. Never use benzocaine in children younger than age 2 without supervision from a healthcare professional. Consult your doctor for more information.
Q: What other problems are caused by getting too much sun?
A: Chronic overexposure to the sun may cause wrinkling, pigment changes and damage to DNA, which can lead to skin cancer. Ultraviolet (UV) light injures the skin and is the major cause of sunburn. Prolonged sun exposure can also accelerate the skin changes that occur as we age, including dark spots, wrinkles, and droopy or leathery skin. In addition, overexposure to the sun may suppress your immune system response.
When grilling outdoors, keep it safe with food handling basics
When you’re enjoying a neighborhood cookout, grilling with friends or going on a family picnic, keep it safe by protecting yourself and others from food-borne illnesses, says Karen Staack, M.D., of Alegent Health Clinic in Elkhorn.
"Good hand-washing is the key to preventing illness, so the most important thing to do before preparing any food is to wash your hands thoroughly with soap and warm water," said Dr. Staack. Here are more tips from Dr. Staack.
Q: How can we prepare food properly?
A: Wash raw vegetables before eating them. When cooking meat, be sure to cook to appropriate temperatures. Pork and poultry must be cooked thoroughly, and the internal temperature for whole pieces of beef should be 145° and ground beef must reach 165°. Here are more tips from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website:
- COOK meat, poultry and eggs thoroughly.
- SEPARATE - don't cross-contaminate one food with another. This can be avoided by washing hands, utensils and cutting boards after they have been in contact with raw meat and poultry and before they touch another food. Put cooked meat on a clean platter rather than back on one that held the raw meat.
- CHILL - refrigerate leftovers promptly. Bacteria can grow quickly at room temperature, so refrigerate leftover foods if not eaten within 4 hours. Don’t leave any mayonnaise-based salads out for longer than 2 hours.
- CLEAN – wash produce. Rinse fresh fruits and vegetables in running tap water. Avoid leaving cut produce at room temperature for many hours. Most important, washing your hands with soap and water before preparing food.
- REPORT suspected food-borne illnesses to your local health department. Often calls from concerned citizens are how outbreaks are first detected. If you have a diarrheal illness, avoid preparing food for others.
Q: What are the symptoms that you may have food poisoning?
A: The symptoms can range from abdominal cramping, diarrhea (which may be bloody), nausea, vomiting, fever, headache and fatigue to body aches.
Q: If you think you have food poisoning, when should you go to the doctor or ER?
A: Consult your healthcare provider if you have a diarrheal illness accompanied by high fever (101.5°, measured orally), blood in stools and prolonged vomiting, which prevents keeping liquids down and can lead to dehydration. Signs of dehydration include: a decrease in urination; a dry mouth and throat; and feeling dizzy when standing up. You should also consult your healthcare provider with any diarrheal illness lasting more than three days.
When you’re in for a swim, buddy up and keep a close eye on the kids
It’s never safe for anyone to swim alone – even good swimmers need buddies, says Bob Kent, M.D., of Alegent Health Clinic in Glenwood, Iowa. "Whenever children are in or near the water, they must be actively supervised by a lifeguard or another adult who knows water rescue," he said. "Use ‘touch supervision’ and stay no more than an arm’s length away."
Never leave children alone near small bodies of water, such as fishponds, ditches, fountains, rain barrels or even the bucket used to wash the car. Children are naturally drawn to these places and need constant supervision to be sure they don't fall in. For older children who can swim a minimum of 150 yards of crawl and 150 yards of backstroke, here’s a rule: "If they’re not old enough to be dropped off at the mall or a movie with friends, don’t drop them off at the pool without adult supervision," said Dr. Kent.
Q: How early should I enroll my child in swimming lessons?
A: Children should be given swimming lessons as soon as they are capable of crawling to the pool. "Parents should decide if they want to enroll younger children, from ages 1 to 4 in swimming lessons, based on the child’s developmental readiness," said Dr. Kent. "But swim programs should never be seen as ‘drown proofing’ a child of any age."
Q: How can we be safe when boating or swimming in a lake?
A: Lakes and farm ponds are not guarded and are not equipped with safety gear. Make sure that you child knows never to dive into a lake, Dr. Kent said.
- Be prepared; bring your own safety lines and first aid equipment.
- Do not allow swimming near boats and/or fishermen.
- Children should wear life jackets at all times when on boats or near bodies of water.
- Make sure the life jacket is the right size for your child. The jacket should not be loose. It should always be worn as instructed with all straps belted.
- Do not use blow-up water wings, toys, rafts and air mattresses as life jackets or personal flotation devices. Adults should wear life jackets for their own protection and to set a good example.
- Teens and adults should be warned of the dangers of boating when under the influence of alcohol, drugs and even some prescription medications.