The weather is heating up, children are fast moving toward the final days of school and visions of summer fun are dancing in the heads of families all across South Carolina. Have fun, but be careful.
While Memorial Day weekend marks the unofficial beginning of cookout season and summer fun, significant health and safety hazards are lurking out there that can spoil a good time if we’re not safe.
Stay safe when swimming
Memorial weekend typically brings with it the openings of swimming pools and other outdoor water activities. Swimming in an ocean or pool is an excellent outdoor activity for the whole family and it’s important to make sure everyone is equipped with sunscreen to protect themselves from harmful, burning ultraviolet (UV) rays. Practicing sun safety plays an important role in the prevention of skin cancer, the most commonly diagnosed cancer in the United States. Apply broad spectrum sunscreen with at least SPF 15 before going outdoors. Reapply sunscreen if it wears off after swimming, sweating or toweling off.
Protect yourself from insect bites
Sunscreen isn’t all you should arm yourself with: Use an insect repellent containing Deet to protect your family from insects while outdoors. The repellent is safe and, when used as directed, is the best way to protect against mosquito bites, ticks and other biting insects; children and pregnant women should protect themselves also. The bite of insects such as mosquitoes can potentially do more than cause irritating itching; mosquitoes can also transmit diseases such as West Nile and Zika.
Watch out for rip currents
It’s also important to be knowledgeable about rip currents or rip tides at the beach. Rip currents are responsible for many deaths on our nation’s beaches every year and can occur in any body of water that has breaking waves, not just the ocean. Currents at the beach can move to different locations along the coast and can be deadly both to swimmers and those in waist deep water where the rip current occurs. Be sure to check in with lifeguards, who can alert you to areas that have rip current potential.
Here are some more tips to keep you and your family safe and healthy at the beach or pool:
- Always supervise children when in or around water.
- Dress in loose, lightweight, light-colored clothing if it is hot outside. Stay cool with cool showers or baths. Seek medical care immediately if anyone has symptoms of heat-related illness, including a headache, nausea, dizziness, heavy sweating, and an elevated body temperature.
- Stay hydrated. Your body loses fluids through sweat. Drink more water than usual — two to four cups of water every hour you are outside. Also, try to avoid alcohol intake to prevent dehydration.
- Cover up. Clothing that covers your skin helps protect against UV rays. Be sure to apply sunscreen to exposed skin.
- Be aware of swim and water quality advisories and avoid swimming in those areas.
- Do not enter the water with cuts, open sores or lesions; naturally-occurring bacteria in the water may cause infection.
- Do not swim in or allow children to play in swashes of water or near storm water drainage pipes. These shallow pools are caused by runoff from paved surfaces and often contain much higher levels of bacteria and pollutants than the ocean. Permanent water quality advisories are indicated by signs in these areas.
- Do not swim in the ocean during or immediately following rainfall. Heavy rain can wash bacteria and possibly harmful pollutants into the surf. To reduce the risk of illness, wait at least 12 hours after a heavy rain to resume swimming.
- Be sure to check your local news and weather forecast for information on heat and beach advisories before planning any type of outdoor activities.