Play it safe this summer — know the basics

Think “summer” and what comes to mind? Beach picnics, boogie boards, basking in the sun and bonfires. Perhaps fireworks on the Fourth of July? Don’t let sunburns, bee stings or more serious accidents or injuries spoil your summer.
No matter how you plan to play this summer, play it safe. Summertime may be carefree, but it’s not always risk-free.
Watch out for burns
Planning a beach bonfire or barbecue? Every summer, San Diegans are injured because of illegal and improper firework usage. But what comes with the sparkle of fireworks in many cases is injury. The hands, eyes, and head and face are the body areas most often involved. Approximately one third of eye injuries from fireworks result in permanent blindness.
Beachgoers can also suffer severe burns caused by smoldering coals or wood chips buried in the sand at the local seashore. Use only designated fire rings or cookout areas, and be sure to fully extinguish the fire and properly dispose of coals or wood. Contrary to what you may believe, covering hot coals or wood with sand doesn’t cool them off. In fact, it actually insulates the heat, keeping them hot for a day or more. Saturate used coals or wood with water and place them in approved disposal bins.
Respect the ocean
Whether you’re surfing, swimming or just cooling off on a hot afternoon, never underestimate the hazards of the ocean. Stick to beaches that are patrolled by lifeguards, and heed their warnings about dangerous riptides, currents and areas to avoid. Always let someone know when you are going into the water, and never let children go in alone.
If you do need help, wave your arms above your head to attract the lifeguard’s attention. And don’t try to fight currents, rather, swim parallel to shore until help arrives or you swim out of the current.
Use sunscreen
With the sun hanging around longer during this time of year, it is crucial to keep sun exposure in check and your skin lubricated with a sunscreen of SPF 15 or greater. San Diego has one of the nation’s best climates — and one of its highest rates of skin cancer. Without protection from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays, you’re putting yourself at increased risk. A few simple precautions can go a long way toward lowering your risk. Stay out of the sun when rays are strongest (generally from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.); when you are outdoors, wear a wide-brimmed hat and plenty of sunscreen. Apply sunscreen generously 30 minutes before you go out. Reapply every two hours, or after swimming or exercise. Don’t forget the kids, too. Research has shown that regular use of sunscreen during the first 18 years of a child’s life can reduce his or her risk for skin cancer by as much as 78 percent.
Practice pool safety
Swimming pools are a summer classic, but they can be dangerous, especially where young children are concerned. Drowning accidents are the leading cause of injury or death among children under 5, and more than 80 percent happen in backyard swimming pools or spas. Never let children in or near the pool unsupervised, and make sure that there is at least one adult around who knows CPR. Keep a cell phone nearby, so you can call for help immediately if necessary.
Don’t get stung
Summer hikes and bike rides are all about getting out and enjoying nature. Unfortunately, nature often includes bees, wasps and other stinging insects. If you have a run-in with one, carefully remove the stinger. Avoid squeezing, which can push irritating venom deeper into the skin. Apply ice to the site.
For most of us, insect stings are mostly a nuisance. However, about 10 percent of the population is extremely sensitive to venom, and a sting can be a life-threatening emergency. Minor redness and itching around the site are normal, but watch out for severe allergic reactions such as swelling around the eyes, lips, tongue or throat, as well as coughing, difficulty breathing, hives and nausea. Symptoms usually appear within minutes of a sting; if they do, seek help immediately.
Stings can happen in the water, too. Although encounters with stingrays and jellyfish are uncommon in San Diego, they do occur. Bathe mild stings in sea water and remove any fragments of the stinger you can find. Medical attention is recommended to make certain that no foreign bodies are left behind. Avoid stepping on stingrays by shuffling your feet as you head into the water, and stay away from jellyfish.
If you are injured, burned, stung or feeling ill because of too much summer excess and you are exhibiting symptoms beyond what you consider normal, consult with your physician or seek emergency medical attention immediately.

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