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Keep your family safe this summer while having fun in the sun

It’s the season that Minnesotans look forward to all year, when we make memories outdoors with lazy days at the lake, cabin, pool, picnic table, and softball or soccer field.

 

By using some common sense and by taking a few precautions, families can be sure to make the most of the season — and lessen their chances of making a trip to an emergency room to deal with an unexpected illness or injury.

 

When temperatures soar, it’s important that every member of the family stays hydrated.

 

“Kids’ bodies do not handle the heat like an adult body; they tend to get overheated faster and then get dehydrated faster,” said Dr Abigail Miller, chief medical officer at UnitedHealthcare.

 

For every 15 minutes of outdoor activity, people should drink about four ounces of water, which is approximately four gulps. That adds up to around 16 oz. of water per hour.

 

“One of the first signs of getting dehydrated is thirst. Our bodies are really good at telling us when we need water, so drink when you’re thirsty,” Dr Miller said. “Water is best for children. Sports drinks are formulated for adults. They contain electrolytes but also a lot of sugar.”

 

While this summer has been cool, every Minnesotan knows that can quickly change. If the weather heats up or if travel plans take families to states baking in the heat wave, look forl signs of overheating that include headaches, nausea, or dizziness. Factors that put folks at greater risk for heatstroke are being 65 or older, having some chronic health conditions, certain medications and prolonged physical exertion in the heat.

 

Along with a water bottle, a tube or bottle of sunscreen should be part what families take along while participating in outdoor activities.

 

“Between 10 am and and 4 pm is when the sun has the highest level of UV, the rays that cause damage to the skin and can later cause skin cancer,” said Dr Miller. “Put on sunscreen about 20 minutes before you go outside and then reapply it every two hours. Everyone forgets to do that!”

 

Nothing beats a lake or pool for chilling on a hot day and summer is a perfect time to enroll children in swimming lessons. But with drowning a leading cause of death in the young, Dr Miller said the value of life jackets when children are around bodies of water can’t be overstated.

 

“Make sure that life jacket fits them properly. I see so many kids who are wearing life jackets that are too big for them. Moms, dads, and grandparents, you should be wearing them too; it models good behavior,” she said. “And of course, life jackets are not a substitute for adult supervision. You have to go out there with them and watch them when they are in the water.”

 

Another way adults can model safe behavior is by wearing bicycle helmets and making sure their kids do, too. Bicycle accidents are one of the leading causes of sports-related head injuries, resulting in thousands of injuries each year. Studies have shown that helmet use among children is not consistent, with nearly one-third reporting never wearing a helmet.

 

While outdoor summer activities are too numerous to mention, many children are tempted to forgo them and stay inside on their screens and devices.

 

Dr Miller said kids who aren’t outdoors are missing out on important developmental activities.

 

“Really young children don’t need any screen time at all. We should be reading to them and playing outside with them,” she said. “Older children need a little screen time that is fun, when they can check in with friends and do some gaming. But on young developing eyes, screens can effect their vision. Kids who spend most of their time on a computer or mobile devices have an 80% increased risk of developing nearsightedness.”

 

Dr Miller points to recent research that confirms the health benefits of getting outside early in the day, which may help enhance mood, improve sleep patterns, and even spur greater productivity.

 

 

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