The weather is warm and the sky is bright – it’s time for your family to dig in and enjoy this beautiful season. Be sure you do safely.
Changing schedules and long, hot days can make it difficult to keep your family’s well-being on track. Fortunately, the right amount of know-how and planning makes it easy to navigate common concerns and face each day feeling healthy and refreshed.
One of the many pleasures of summer is spending time outdoors, but the sun’s rays can be particularly harmful this time of year.
Sunburn and tanning are evidence of sun-damaged skin, which can greatly increase the risk of developing skin cancer, including melanoma. This type of skin cancer can spread quickly if not caught early.
Your best defense is to avoid sun exposure when the sun’s rays are strongest — between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. If you do venture out, wear light-colored clothes that cover your skin and apply sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30. Reapply after any water sports or every two hours.
In addition to burns, too much time in the hot sunshine can lead to problems such as dehydration and heat exhaustion. Drink water throughout the day to ensure your body remains hydrated and doesn’t overheat.
Swimming is an excellent exercise for the entire family. However, there are some safety concerns to keep in mind next time you take a dip.
“Drowning is the leading cause of injury-related deaths for children between the ages of 1 and 4,” said Lisa L. Corum, MD, family medicine physician with KentuckyOne Health Primary Care Associates. “Parents must remain vigilant when their children are playing in or around water. This means putting away distractions and providing constant supervision.”
Being in water can also lead to swimmer’s ear — an infection responsible for 2.4 million health care visits every year in the United Sates. While common, swimmer’s ear can be prevented by keeping the ears dry or using over-the-counter eardrops that contain a drying agent.
To feel their best, school-aged children and teenagers need between eight and 11 hours of sleep each night. While there may be more time to snooze during summer break, be careful not to set a schedule that’s drastically different from their school year one.
Children accustomed to going to bed and rising late may struggle when school is back in session. Get ahead of this problem by setting a normal sleep routine at least two weeks before school begins.
“I recommend parents provide their children with planners so they can begin scheduling school days and extracurricular activities,” Dr. Corum said. “Those plans should include a reasonable bedtime. Children like to have some say about how they spend their time, and this is one way to promote that.”
Getting ready for the first day of school? Don’t forget to schedule back-to school physicals and check on children’s immunizations. Both are just as vital to being prepared as school supplies and a perfect first-day outfit.
A visit to the doctor gives families peace of mind. You’ll know your children are protected from contagious diseases, and they’ll have the all-clear to begin playing sports. It’s also a good time to get a general update on your family’s well-being. Consider scheduling your own annual wellness visit at the same time.
The Commonwealth of Kentucky requires student athletes to have a specific physical before they can participate in school-sponsored sports programs. Let your children’s physician know if they are planning to play sports during the upcoming school year.
The summer season can be hard on your digestive health — a trend that catches many families off guard.
“We see more intestinal viruses during the summer months,” said Kathleen Martin, MD, gastroenterologist with KentuckyOne Health Gastroenterology Associates. “Just like winter is a time to be extra cautious about hand hygiene to avoid catching the flu, summer is the time to be extra cautious about what you eat.”
Backyard barbecues, pool parties or other events that involve leaving food out in the sun are potential causes of stomach troubles. All it takes is one hour for perishable foods to spoil in the summer sun. For lactose intolerant people, cold and creamy summer treats may increase flare-ups. And even a seemingly harmless dip in the lake can increase the risk of a common intestinal parasite infection called giardia.
“To help prevent problems, wash your hands regularly and be mindful about what you’re eating or drinking,” Dr. Martin said. “Avoiding risks can keep many people healthy and free to enjoy summer activities.”