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Summer fun, summer safety guide
Sun smarts
Sting savvy
Water wisdom
Plant patrol
Lyme elimination
Road rules


Your safe-trip checklist
Your safe-trip checklist

Nothing spoils a vacation like unexpected health problems. Being prepared can take some of the sting out of getting sick while you’re away. So before you leave. . .

  • Prepare a first-aid kit. Pack travel-size packages of your usual over-the-counter pain reliever, cold and stomach medicine or any other nonprescription drugs you are likely to need; adhesive bandages; antibacterial ointment; and soothing aloe-based lotions.
  • Pack any prescription medications you take regularly. Carry a few extra doses in case you happen to be waylaid, and ask your doctor for a copy of your regular prescriptions.
  • Check medication labels for warnings that might affect outdoor fun. For example, some medications require that you stay out of the sun.
  • If you wear eyeglasses or contact lenses, take along a spare pair as well as a copy of your prescription.
  • If you have a chronic illness, ask your doctor for the name of a physician you can call on while you’re at your vacation destination.

Ah…the promise of summer: sunny days and lazy evenings, barbecues and picnics, getaways and good times. To make sure those times really are good, heed the seasonal safety tips on these two pages.

Sun smarts

A great tan may look good, but staying pale is definitely better for your health since skin cancer is directly related to sun exposure. Your best defense is to avoid the sun between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. If that puts a crimp in your summer plans, put your second best defense into action: Apply plenty of sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15; keep your head and body covered in light, loose layers; and wear a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses.

If you do get a sunburn, apply aloe vera gel right away and take acetaminophen to ease minor discomfort. You’ll probably be a little dehydrated so be sure to drink lots of water. Cool showers, baths or compresses can soothe the burn and prevent it from worsening. Call your healthcare provider if your skin blisters or if you develop chills, fever or nausea.

Sting savvy

If you or your child is stung by a bee, wasp or hornet, remove the stinger and venom sac by scraping it with your fingernail or a credit card. Do not squeeze and pull or you’ll release more venom. Wash the site with soap and water and apply an ice pack to stop the swelling. Be alert for signs of allergic reaction, such as wheezing, labored breathing, nausea or vomiting. Go to an emergency room should any of these symptoms develop. (If you or your child is allergic to bees, ask your healthcare provider about prescribing an emergency kit and keep it handy when you are outdoors.) To avoid getting stung in the first place, wear white or khaki-colored long-sleeved shirts and long pants, avoid scented products and shiny jewelry and never swat at a stinging insect.

Water wisdom

Don’t leave your common sense at home when you head beach-, lake- or poolside. Make sure a lifeguard is always present and keep a close eye on children in the water. Make sure all family members are wearing life jackets when riding in a boat.

Plant patrol

The best way to avoid contact with poison ivy, poison sumac or poison oak is to know what they look like. The distinctive feature of poison ivy is that its smooth, shiny leaves always occur in groups of three. Poison oak is similar; however, it grows in shrubs and its leaves more closely resemble oak leaves. Poison sumac is far less common but far more toxic. It resembles a shrub or a small tree, and its leaves are arranged in groups of seven to 13 pointed leaflets. From late summer to early spring, the plant has clusters of white berries. If you come into contact with any of these plants, wash immediately with soap and water. Rhuligel, an over-the-counter preparation, may help ease itching, and Benadryl, an oral antihistamine, may also bring relief. Note: Wash in chlorine-based detergent any clothing that comes in contact with the plants.

Lyme elimination

If you’re planning a family hike, find out if the wooded area you’ll be traveling to is Lyme disease country. Deer ticks carrying the virus hang out on plants and leaves close to the ground, so it’s easy to pick one up without realizing it. To avoid doing that, wear long-sleeved shirts and tuck pants legs into knee socks. If you develop a red, bull’s-eye rash after an outing in a wooded area or develop flu-like symptoms, see your doctor immediately. A course of antibiotics within the first 72 hours will stop the progression of Lyme disease, but left untreated it can cause heart, joint or nervous system problems.

Road rules

A summer road trip is an American tradition, but be careful not to overdo it. Take a five-minute break every hour to stretch your legs. The break will also help you avoid highway fatigue, a kind of hypnosis caused by driving long stretches of flat, empty road. If you know you’ll be driving through desolate territory, keep a cooler with provisions in your trunk and make sure you have basic safety equipment, such as flares, a spare tire and a jack. And, of course, don’t forget to make sure you and your kids buckle up!