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“Safe for the Summer” By Dr. Towanda Harris, MD

Pool Safety

Swimming is a great recreational sport that people of all ages can enjoy. But it’s important to know how to be safe while you’re in the water. The American Red Cross offers these important swimming safety tips you should be aware of before you head out to the pool or beach:

Dr. Towanda Harris, MD
  • Swim in designated areas supervised by lifeguards.
  • Always swim with a buddy; do not allow anyone to swim alone.
  • Never leave a young child unattended near water and do not trust a child’s life to another child; teach children always to ask permission to go near water.
  • Have young children or inexperienced swimmers wear U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jackets around water, but do not rely on life jackets alone.
  • Maintain constant supervision.
  • Make sure everyone in your family learns to swim well. Enroll in age-appropriate Red Cross water orientation and learn-to-swim courses.
  • If you have a pool, secure it with appropriate barriers. Children who drown in home pools were out of sight for less than five minutes and in the care of one or both parents.
  • Avoid distractions when supervising children around water.
  • If a child is missing, check the water first. Seconds count in preventing death or disability.
  • Have appropriate equipment, such as reaching or throwing equipment, a cell phone, life jackets, and a first aid kit.
  • Know when to call 9-1-1 or the local emergency number.

Sun Safety

Spending time outside is a great way to be physically active, reduce stress, and get vitamin D.  You can work and play outdoors without raising your skin cancer risk by protecting your skin from the sun. Most skin cancers are caused by too much exposure to ultraviolet (U.V.) light. U.V. rays are an invisible kind of radiation from the sun, tanning beds, and sunlamps. U.V. rays can damage skin cells. Protection from U.V. rays is essential all year, not just during the summer. U.V. rays can reach you on cloudy and cool days, and they reflect off surfaces like water, cement, sand, and snow. In the continental United States, U.V. rays tend to be strongest from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. daylight saving time (9 a.m. to 3 p.m. standard time).

How to Protect Your Skin From the Sun: Information provided by the CDC

  • Shade: You can reduce your risk of sun damage and skin cancer by staying in the shade under an umbrella, tree, or other shelters. Your best bet to protect your skin is to use sunscreen or wear protective clothing when you’re outside—even when you’re in the shade.
  • Clothing: When possible, wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants and skirts, protecting your skin from U.V. rays. If wearing this type of clothing isn’t practical, try to wear a T-shirt or a beach cover-up. Clothes made from tightly woven fabric offer the best protection. A wet T-shirt offers much less U.V. protection than a dry one, and darker colors may offer more security than lighter colors. Some clothing is certified under international standards as offering U.V. protection.
  • Hat: For the most protection, wear a hat that has a brim around that shades your face, ears, and the back of your neck. A tightly woven fabric, such as canvas, works best to protect your skin from U.V. rays. Avoid straw hats with holes that let sunlight through. A darker hat may offer more U.V. protection. If you wear a baseball cap, you should also protect your ears and the back of your neck by wearing clothing that covers those areas, using sunscreen, or staying in the shade.
  • Sunglasses: Sunglasses protect your eyes from U.V. rays and reduce the risk of cataracts. They also protect the tender skin around your eyes from sun exposure. Sunglasses that block both UVA and UVB rays offer the best protection. Most sunglasses sold in the United States, regardless of cost, meet this standard. In addition, wrap-around sunglasses work best because they block U.V. rays from sneaking in from the side.
  • Sunscreen: Put on broad-spectrum sunscreen that blocks both UVA and UVB rays and has an SPF of 15 or higher before you go outside. Don’t forget to put a thick layer on all exposed skin. Get help for hard-to-reach places like your back. And remember, sunscreen works best when combined with other options. Sunscreen is not recommended for babies who are six months old or younger. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommends keeping infants out of the sun during midday and using protective clothing if they have to be in the sun.
    • SPF. Sunscreens are assigned a sun protection factor (SPF), which is a number that rates how well they block U.V. rays. Higher numbers indicate more protection. It would help if you used a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher.
    • Reapplication. Sunscreen wears off. Put it on again if you stay out in the sun for more than 2 hours and after swimming, sweating, or toweling off.
    • Expiration date. Check the sunscreen’s expiration date. Sunscreen without an expiration date has a shelf life of no more than three years. Sunscreen exposed to sunlight reduces its shelf life.