As we head into summer, more people will begin spending time outside and enjoying the sunshine, but it’s important take precautions when necessary to keep yourself and your loved ones safe. Dr. Craig Ward with Colleton Medical Center provides a few tips to help keep you safe as you start to plan for the warm weather and summer activities.

Keep bugs away

Insects making an appearance is inevitable during the summer, and while some are just a nuisance, others can spread diseases. Certain activities, such as camping, hiking or going into forested areas, can put you at greater risk of receiving bug bites. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends insect repellents registered with the Environmental Protection Agency that contain the following ingredients:

  • DEET
  • Picaridin (known as KBR 3023 and icaridin outside of the United States)
  • IR3535
  • Oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE)
  • Para-menthane-diol (PMD)
  • 2-undecanone

The CDC recommends that you apply sunscreen first, and then insect repellent. It also suggests treating clothing and any other gear with permethrin, an insecticide that kills or repels mosquitoes. Don’t forget to do a thorough tick check after spending time outside as well.

Swim safely

As it gets warmer, many people will be heading to the beach or pool to cool off. It is important to know how to swim safely to prevent drowning or other accidents in the water. The American Red Cross provides the following guidance on swimming safety:

  • Make sure everyone in your family learns how to swim well.
  • Swim in designated areas supervised by lifeguards.
  • Always swim with a buddy.
  • Drink plenty of water, even if you’re not thirsty.

Stay hydrated

One of the most important summer safety tips to keep in mind is to stay hydrated as you go about your day. “Generally, you should aim to drink 8 to 10 cups (2.37 liters) of water per day, depending on your age, weight, gender, activity level and other factors,” said Dr. Ward. “The more active you are, the more water you should be drinking to stay hydrated.”

You can also eat water-rich foods like peaches, oranges, grapes, strawberries, cucumbers and melons. To make sure you stay hydrated during the day while you’re out, the National Environmental Education Foundation recommends bringing a reusable water bottle with you so you can refill it at public places such as parks or grocery stores.

Stay protected against the sun

Although the warm weather is nice, spending more time in the sun can lead to a sunburn or sun damage if you’re not careful. To minimize the risk of potential harm from sun exposure, be sure to check the UV index before you head out. The UV index measures the strength of sunburn-producing ultraviolet radiation during the day — the higher the UV index, the more dangerous it is to spend time outside.

UVA rays comprise 95% of the ultraviolet radiation that reaches the earth’s surface and can cause skin cancer and skin aging, while UVB rays can cause skin reddening and sunburns. Both UVA and UVB can damage skin cells. The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) recommends using a water-resistant, broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher to protect against UVA and UVB rays.

Make sure to apply sunscreen at least 15 minutes before leaving the house to give your skin time to absorb it, and reapply sunscreen at least every 2 hours, especially if you are sweating or swimming. You should also make sure you are applying enough sunscreen. According to the AAD, most people only apply 25% to 50% of the recommended amount of sunscreen.

“It is also important to note that even if you have darker skin, you still need sunscreen,” said Dr. Ward. Melanin, the pigment that gives skin its color, does provide some protection against UV rays, but it doesn’t completely protect darker skin tones from sun damage. With all skin tones, even though you may not see a visible sunburn, sun damage can still occur without the proper precautions.

As you look to enjoy the warm weather, keep these summer safety tips in mind to ensure that you are avoiding potential harm and injuries. If you have questions about how to stay safe during the summer, be sure to ask your doctor about any summer-related health concerns.