Newswise — Temperatures are rising and summer has finally arrived. As the season of swimming, hiking, biking, and exploring the great outdoors kicks-off, University of the Sciences experts are available to talk about summer safety issues and how to make sure summer is not a bummer. Safety topics include: tips for the pool safety, sun burn relief, heat exposure and dehydration, helmet usage, and Lyme disease.
The fun of jumping into a pool turns into trauma for nearly 6,500 adolescents a year who end up in emergency rooms for diving-related injuries*. Carlos Moreno, MS OTR/L, assistant professor of occupational therapy, cautions everyone, especially parents, to be aware of the risks of spinal and brain injury involved with this summer tradition. Individuals who suffer spinal cord injuries from diving accidents risk becoming quadriplegic, being unable to move or feel below the neck, being restricted to assisted breathing, and a significantly decreased life expectancy.
Supervision: “No one should swim alone, regardless of the age group.”
Check the Depth of the Pool: “Diving should only be allowed in the deep end of the pool, which must be at least nine feet deep.”
Avoid Steep Dives: “Swimmers diving with a steep trajectory put themselves at greater risk for their heads hitting the bottom of the pool.”
Communication: “A cell phone or payphone should be accessible in case of an emergency.”
Learn CPR: “In an emergency, a person on site trained in CPR can provide invaluable assistance in the moments spent waiting for help to arrive.”
*according to a report published in the August 2008 issue of Pediatrics
Too much sun exposure can lead to premature skin aging and skin cancer cautions Ara DerMarderosian, PhD, professor of pharmacognosy: “Unprotected skin can burn in minutes, so it’s vital to cover up with light reflective clothing and hats, avoid the sun between 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., when it’s most powerful, and use sunscreen products with a sun protection factor (SPF) higher than 15.” Because sloughing on sunscreen isn’t a fool-proof way to avoid the lobster-red pains of a summer sunburn, Dr. DerMarderosian, an expert in alternative medicine and natural products, provides guidance on how to treat the pain:
Aloe: A popular remedy for minor sunburn, this natural pain reliever should be applied every hour until the pain diminishes.
Calendula (pot marigold): A cream, which contains a calendula plant extract ointment, that acts as an anti-inflammatory and helps promote tissue repair. Due to its content of anti-inflammatory triterpenoids and flavonoids, it should be applied three times per day.
Aromatherapy: Essential oils such as peppermint, chamomile, and peppermint can also soothe sunburn when massaged into the affected area.
Vitamin-E & vitamin-C: Studies have found that these vitamins may help to prevent sunburn when used either topically or orally. Many manufacturers already add vitamin E to sunscreens.
Jojoba: Jojoba Oil is a naturally-derived plant extract that mimics our natural oils and improves elasticity and moisturization to burns – alleviating the tightening sensation.
Hydrotherapy: Soaking in a cool bath for 15-20 minutes can soothe sunburned skin and adding a cup of either white vinegar, baking soda, or oatmeal, can help reduce pain, itching, or inflammation.
High heat and increased activity in the summer causes us to lose more water than usual, especially in children and the elderly who do not have adequate thirst mechanisms and require constant monitoring, warns Karin Richards, MS, ACSM, ACE-CPT/GFI, Director of Exercise Science & Wellness Management and Director of Health Sciences. Heat stroke is a potentially fatal condition characterized by very high body temperature, confusion, rapid pulse, difficulty breathing, and no sweating. Richards, a certified personal trainer, offers the following tips to avoid dehydration, heat stroke, and heat stress:
Detect Dehydration: Clear or light-colored urine signals hydration, while darker yellow or amber urine signals dehydration. If you experience headaches, feeling lethargic and weak, thirst, decreased urine elimination, and muscle cramps, you may be dehydrated. If you experience low blood pressure, rapid heartbeat, fever, sunken eyes, irritability, these are serious symptoms of dehydration and you should seek emergency care immediately.
Exercise: Exercise before the sun comes up or after it goes down to avoid exercising mid-day – when the sun, heart & humidity are generally at their peak. When exercising, wear a hat, take frequent breaks, and wear light, loose clothing that breathes so sweat evaporates and doesn’t stay on the skin. Weigh yourself before and after exercise. Every pound that you’ve lost is water and you’ll need to replace that water for your body to operate effectively.
Diet: Eat light meals, drink lots of water throughout the day, avoid alcohol and caffeine.
Drink: Start drinking water before being active. For less intense activity, one to two cups an hour before your activity is sufficient but be wary of drinking too much fluid before and during an activity to avoid sloshing in the stomach.
Take Breaks: If you start to feel woozy or just tired, stop your activity and cool down, get into the shade, drink cool fluids, and place a wet washcloth at the base of your neck.
Avoid the Heat: Stay in air conditioned locations on very hot and humid days.
Brain injuries cause more deaths than any other sports injury*. Therese E. Johnston, PT, PhD, MBA, assistant professor of physical therapy, advises that while taking part in summer activities such as biking, skating, wakeboarding, skateboarding, horseback riding, playing baseball and football, and more, children and adults should wear protective head gear. Helmets help prevent concussions (bruise to the brain) and serious brain injuries that can lead to permanent disability or death. While helmet laws exist and vary in many states, universal use of helmets could prevent one death every day and one brain injury every four minutes.* Dr. Johnston is available to discuss:
- What summer activities necessitate a helmet for safety and what activities are the most dangerous.
- The physical dangers and potential consequences of not wearing a helmet.
- Buying tips to get the correct new or used helmet for your needs.
- How to tell if a helmet fits and how it should properly rest on the head.
- Advice for parents to encourage helmet-resistant children to wear a helmet.
*according to a 2004 report published by the Brain Injury Association of America
The risk of contracting Lyme disease from bacteria transmitted by ticks heightens in the summer months as people spend more time outdoors hiking, camping, and playing in the yard explains Daniel Hussar, PhD, Remington Professor of Pharmacy. White-footed mice and white-tailed deer are the most common animal hosts for ticks, and signs of an infection, caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi, can include an expanding circular rash called erythema migrans or a bull’s-eye rash at the bite site, fatigue, headache, muscle and joint aches, flu-like symptoms, and swollen lymph nodes. Dr. Hussar shares how to best prevent tick bites and various treatments for Lyme disease:
- Minimize skin exposure
- Use tick repellents, such as DEET
- If bitten, promptly remove the tick from the skin by pulling it off gently with tweezers, leaving the tick and its mouth parts intact. Do not put vaseline, fingernail polish, mineral oil, alcohol, or a lit match on the tick.
- Most cases of Lyme disease can be cured using an oral antibiotic, such as doxycycline (for treating patients over 8 years of age). Alternative treatments include cefuroxime and amoxicillin.
- Serious infections may require intravenous therapy, such as ceftriaxone.
- A small percentage of patients have symptoms that last months to years even after treatment with antibiotics, such as muscle and joint pains, arthritis, cognitive defects, sleep disturbance, or fatigue.
- If you suspect you have Lyme disease, it is important that you consult your health care provider for proper diagnosis. If the infection goes unrecognized and untreated, it can lead to serious cardiac issues, arthritic problems, and/or become a chronic neurological condition.