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Tips for a Safer Summer

Whether your idea of summer fun is surfing, sailing, or camping with the family, there is no shortage of summertime activities in Ventura County! No matter how you choose to enjoy the season, these tips can help keep you and your family safe and healthy.

Under the Sun

Did you know that the US Department of Health and Human Services classifies ultra violet (UV) radiation as a human carcinogen, just like tobacco or asbestos? Practicing sun safety is essential both in the short-term, so you don’t get a sunburn or heat stroke, and in the long-term, to reduce your risk of skin cancer.

  • Don’t go for the burn! UV rays penetrate clouds and haze and reflect off water, cement, and sand. The most dangerous hours for UV exposure are between 10 am and 4 pm. Practice sun safety by:
    • Applying a broad-spectrum sunscreen (SPF 15 or higher) every 2 hours and when you come out of the water. Toss last year’s sunscreen — it loses potency over time.
    • Staying in the shade as much as you can.
    • Wearing a broad brimmed hat and sunglasses with 100% UV protection.
  • Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. On a hot day, dehydration can lead to heat exhaustion, followed by heat stroke, a potentially fatal medical emergency. Don’t schedule physically demanding outdoor activities like hiking or biking when extreme heat is in the forecast.
  • Protect the kiddos. The Academy of Pediatrics recommends keeping babies younger than 6 months out of the sun entirely. Dress them so that their little arms and legs are covered, with a brimmed hat to shade their necks. If a limited amount of sun exposure is unavoidable, apply a tiny bit of sunscreen to their faces, hands, and feet. For older kids, follow the same guidelines as for adults.

At the Picnic

A leisurely picnic or barbecue on a gorgeous day is one of life’s simple pleasures. Relax, enjoy, and pay attention to these important safety measures:

  • Beware of bacteria. Bacteria grow faster in warm weather. Keep raw foods in the fridge until you’re ready to grill. Never reuse marinade. If you made extra, put that aside and refrigerate it BEFORE you marinate your meat or fish. Refrigerate cooked leftovers within an hour.
  • Know the grill. Clean work surfaces, utensils, and the grill thoroughly before cooking. Grill at least 10 feet away from your home, keep a fire extinguisher and hose handy, and never leave the grill unattended. Wear sunglasses to protect your eyes from the heat and smoke. To make sure food is cooked through, use a food thermometer. The temperature should be 145°F for beef, pork, and fish, 160°F for ground meats, and 165°F for chicken or turkey.
  • Drink moderately. Too much alcohol makes you more accident-prone and increases your risk for dehydration, heat exhaustion, and even heatstroke.

In the Water

There’s nothing like a refreshing dip on a hot day, but it’s crucial to stay vigilant around bodies of water. Follow these tips to make sure the whole family stays safe:

  • Teach kids to swim. Swimming is an essential life-skill, just like reading or riding a bike. Designate an adult to keep a close watch when kids are playing in the water. If you lose track of a child, check the water first — it’s hard to see a child who’s sunk to the bottom of a crowded pool. If you’re boating, make sure everyone wears a life jacket.
  • Don’t dive in less than 9 feet of water and never dive into surf.
  • Be aware at the beach. Enter the water feet first and watch out for big waves that could knock you over. NEVER swim during a red flag warning, an indication of strong currents, rip tides, and dangerous surf. If you get caught in a rip current, stay calm and swim parallel to the beach until you are out of the current. If you’re on the beach and see a water emergency, get the lifeguard. If there’s no lifeguard on duty, call 911.
  • Always swim sober. Accidents happen when people drink too much.

On the Move

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), summer is peak accident season. Watch out for other drivers. Alcohol consumption is up, teen drivers are out of school, and hot weather increases the odds of car trouble. If you see a person or animal trapped in a hot car, call 911 immediately. On a 78° day, the inside of a parked car can heat up to 120° in minutes!

  • If you like to bike, be sure to:
    • Always ride in the direction of traffic.
    • Stop at red lights and stop signs.
    • Give pedestrians the right of way in the crosswalk.
    • Stay off the sidewalk.
    • Wear a well-fitted helmet.
    • Wear bright, reflective clothing to ride at night.
    • Consult the California vehicle code for bicycles for detailed requirements regarding lights and reflectors.
  • Protect your feet. Avoid walking barefoot. You could step on a bee, broken glass, or a rusty nail. Don’t wear flip flops on long walks. The lack of foot support can lead to foot pain, back pain, and tendonitis. Be sure to wear close-toed shoes, long pants, and safety goggles to mow the lawn.

Out in Nature

Being alone in nature is a wonderful feeling — unless you’re lost. Always tell someone where you are going, especially if you’re hiking alone. Check the weather forecast and the hike’s difficulty level in advance. Practice sun safety (see above) and, as the Boy Scouts say, be prepared.

  • Stay hydrated. Bring plenty of water and keep sipping — your body only absorbs about a half-liter of water per hour. For longer hikes, bring electrolyte drink mixes to keep your sodium and potassium at healthy levels and trail mix for an energy boost.
  • Pack some essentials. Bring a first aid kit stocked with Band-Aids, gauze, tape, antibiotic ointment, bug spray, sunscreen, hydrocortisone cream, and poison oak wipes in case you come into contact with poison oak.
  • Pay Attention! Put away your earbuds and observe your surroundings:
    • Learn to recognize poison oak, stinging nettles, and poison hemlock.
    • Keep an eye out for rattlesnakes and call 911 immediately if bitten. Remove jewelry and tight clothing to make room for swelling. Position yourself so the bite is below the level of your heart. If soap and water are available, clean and dress the wound.
    • If you encounter a bear, mountain lion, or coyote, stay calm. Face the animal, maintain eye contact, and back away slowly. Do not run — these animals associate running with prey. If you have a small child or dog with you, try to pick them up without crouching.