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5 tips for a safe and healthy summertime

Young girl swimming underwater wearing goggles

Summer is filled with fun outdoor activities that make the most of the long, lazy days and warm weather. Whether you’re heading to the beach, enjoying a picnic in a park, going fishing, or taking the kids on a bike ride, stay safe and healthy with our summer safety tips for the whole family.


Stay cool in the summer heat

During the summer, everyone is at risk for heat-related illnesses, especially children under age four and people age 65 and older. If you’re overweight or have a chronic health condition, you also have a higher risk of developing heat exhaustion or heat stroke.

On hot days, avoid heat-related illnesses by limiting your exposure to the outdoors, particularly during the hottest part of the day, 11 a.m. – 4 p.m. If your home doesn’t have air-conditioning, find a cooling center.

Before you venture outside, apply sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher. Wear sunglasses, lightweight clothing, and a hat. Drink plenty of water and replace the salt your body loses from sweating by drinking 100 percent fruit juice or sports drinks. And avoid alcohol, which can dehydrate you.


Signs of heat exhaustion and heat stroke

Heat exhaustion can occur when your body loses too much water and salt, usually due to excess sweating. Signs of heat exhaustion include moist skin, a rapid heart rate, fatigue, headache, dizziness, and nausea.

If you experience heat exhaustion, move to a shaded or air-conditioned place. Drink water or another nonalcoholic beverage, and cool yourself with wet towels or a cool shower.

Left untreated, heat exhaustion can escalate rapidly into heat stroke. Call 911 immediately if someone is experiencing signs of heat stroke, which include a body temperature above 103°F, dry skin, rapid breath, confusion, and unreasonable behavior.

Move the person to a cool place and remove any unnecessary clothing. Cover the body with cold, wet towels or place the person in a cold shower. The goal is to cool the body temperature to 101°F. Don’t force the person to drink liquids.


Swimming and water safety

Swimming is a great way to cool off on a hot summer day. Have fun, but keep water safety top of mind when enjoying a day at the beach or at a pool, lake, or river.

Only go into the water if you know how to swim. If you can’t swim, take lessons, even if you’re an adult. Keep in mind that swimming in a pool is different than swimming in a lake or river, where you may experience sudden drop-offs or currents. If you get caught in a current, stay calm and swim parallel to the shore until you can free yourself from the pull of the water.

Swim only in areas supervised by a lifeguard. Lifeguards are there to keep everyone safe, but they aren’t babysitters. Always keep an eye on your child. In the event of an emergency, don’t go into the water. Reach or throw an object to the person in trouble.

Never swim alone, dive in unfamiliar areas, or drink alcohol when swimming.

Supervise children around water. Kiddie pools may seem harmless, but if you have to leave the area, even just for a moment, take your child with you. If a child is missing, check the water first.

Wear a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket whenever you’re on a boat. That goes for adults and kids.


Smart rules for bike safety

Biking is one of the best ways to exercise and explore new places. Always check your bike before you ride, adjust the seat to the proper height, and make sure all parts are working properly. If it has been awhile since you last rode, you may need to inflate the tires.

Wear bright clothing so other cyclists and drivers can see you. If you must bike at night, wear reflective clothing, make sure your bike is equipped with reflectors, and use flashing front and rear lights.


Always wear a bike helmet

Everyone should wear a bike helmet, even on short rides. Make sure the helmet is certified by the Consumer Product Safety Commission and learn how to properly fit a bike helmet.

Stay safe by following the rules of the road. Bicyclists must obey the same traffic laws that apply to motorists. Watch for opening car doors and other hazards, and use hand signals whenever you turn. If you need to check your phone, pull over and stop.


Prevent foodborne illness at picnics and BBQs

Summer is picnic season, a time to enjoy meals in the great outdoors. But it’s easy to get caught up in the fun and forget about food safety. Here are some tips on preventing foodborne illnesses:

Wash all fruits and vegetables before you leave home. Keep food in clean, tightly sealed containers. Raw meats should be separate from produce, buns, and side dishes.

Pack plenty of ice or ice packs in your cooler to keep the temperature below 40°F. Chill or freeze foods before packing them into your cooler.

Wash your hands before your prepare food, after handling raw meat, and before you eat. If there’s no running water at your picnic site, use hand sanitizer.

Never serve cooked meat on the same plate you used for raw meat. Also, don’t add charcoal starter fluid after the coals have already been ignited, and keep pets away from the grill. Never grill in a house, camper, tent, or enclosed area.

Pack beverages in a separate cooler, along with ice cubes stored in a separate sealed bag. People get thirsty on hot summer days and often dig around in the cooler looking for something cold to drink. Open coolers quickly lose their cool.

Don’t let food sit out for more than two hours. It’s easy to lose track of time when you’re relaxing outside. Unfortunately, you can’t see, smell, or taste the harmful bacteria that can grow on food that’s been out in the heat too long. All perishable food can make you sick, including meat, eggs, potato salad, and anything made with mayonnaise or dairy.


Stay bite-free with outdoor bug safety tips

Unfortunately, mosquitos love summer even more than we do. To protect yourself and your family from insect bites, use an Environmental Protection Agency-registered insect repellent with DEET. Apply repellents only to exposed skin or clothing, following the directions on the product label, and wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants, especially in the evening. Mosquitoes lay their eggs in standing water, so be sure to empty water from planters and flowerpot saucers after it rains.

It’s just one more way to keep everyone healthy and safe—and make sure this is the best summer ever.


Additional sources

National Safety Council, Summer Safety Tips

U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Handling Food Safely While Eating Outdoors