5 Tips for a Fun and Safe Summer

Follow this checklist to stay safe and healthy during all your favorite summer activities.

1. SPF, don’t leave home without it!

Nobody uses enough sunscreen, so the higher the SPF, the better! Dr. Aaron Steen, a Mayo Clinic dermatologist and a Cancer Sherpa consultant, recommends using a minimum of SPF 30. “If you under-apply SPF 30, you’re probably really getting (the coverage of) SPF 15,” he shares. “Thus, if you under-apply SPF 100, you’re probably really getting SPF 50, etc.” That said, it’s best to reapply every two hours when outdoors and after going swimming.

Dr. Steen asserts that chemical and physical blockers are both effective. Chemical blockers include avobenzone, octinoxate, oxybenzone, and others; physical blockers include zinc or titanium. He does note that “There was some research that showed chemical sunblocks are absorbed into the bloodstream at a higher rate than previously thought. It’s still unclear if it is biologically significant. But, for that reason, a lot of parents prefer using physical blockers on their kids.”

2. Stay hydrated!

It may seem like a given, but drinking plenty of fluids is critical in the summer heat and increased sun exposure. Did you know we actually get most of our water from our food? It’s true, so make sure to eat your vegetables, summer fruits, and cold soups to keep you cool and hydrated. Having a bowl of oatmeal for breakfast can also help, as the oats absorb the water and milk you use to make it.

If you’re looking to liven up your water, adding some flavor with fruits keeps your taste buds from getting bored. You can also enjoy water alternatives like coconut water, iced tea, iced coffee, and low-sugar juices. What not to drink: avoid imbibing in alcohol in excess or drinking in the sun.

3. Bug spray keeps itchy bug bites and bug-borne diseases away!

No one needs to remind you that with summer come MOSQUITOES! As we know, mosquitoes and other insects cause itching and discomfort. But while these pests are mostly annoying, we also have to remember that they can carry viruses like West Nile.

To protect yourself, use insect repellent* that contains one of these active ingredients: DEET, picaridin, IR3535, oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE), para-menthane-diol (PMD), or 2-undecanone. You can find which products work best for you and your family by using the EPA’s search tool that contains all insect repellents that have been proven safe and effective, even for pregnant and breastfeeding women.

Add another level of protection by wearing long-sleeve shirts and pants and treating all clothing, including boots, and gear with 0.5% permethrin, if you plan to be in a highly mosquito-infested area. Avoid any and all standing or slow-moving water; mosquitoes and other insects lay their eggs in standing water.

4. Sunglasses don’t just make you look cool…They protect your sight!

Nothing feels better than holding your face up to the sun on a beautiful summer day; just make sure you protect your eyes while you do it! Dr. Michael Kutryb of the American Academy of Ophthalmology warns, “UV radiation, whether from natural sunlight or indoor artificial rays, can damage the eye’s surface tissues as well as the cornea and lens.”

UV damage to these areas can ultimately impair your sight if you develop conditions like cataracts, eye cancers, or snow blindness (literally a sunburn of the cornea from prolonged exposure to UV reflections off of snow, ice, sand, or water). You’ll also want to avoid developing pterygium, also known as “Surfer’s Eye,” a condition that develops primarily in surfers, skiers, fishermen, farmers, or anyone repeatedly exposed to the midday sun, or near rivers, oceans, or mountains in their teens and 20s.

You can protect yourself, and especially babies and young children, by wearing sunglasses that provide 100% UV or UV400 protection or block both UV-A and UV-B rays. The sunglasses label should clearly state the UV protection percentage. We also recommend you wear a broad-brimmed hat with your sunglasses (this is particularly important for babies and young children). Remember: clouds do not block UV rays, and that sunlight is strongest at midday and early afternoon, at higher altitudes, and when reflected off of water, ice, or snow.

5. Tick, mole, and freckle checks for all! Especially you gardeners and hikers!

Here’s what you NEED to know about ticks. Ticks carry bacteria that can cause Lyme Disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever and a whole host of other tick-borne diseases. They range in size from as small as a poppy seed (a freckle) to as large as a sesame seed (a mole). Ticks that carry the bacteria that can cause serious illness have been found in all fifty states. Therefore, you should expect to find ticks in grassy, brushy, and wooded areas and on the animals that frequent them, pets included. That means activities like gardening, hiking, hunting, and camping can bring you into close contact with ticks.

There are several ways you can protect yourself from ticks when you’re outdoors. For starters, treat all clothing, including boots, and hiking/camping gear, with 0.5% permethrin, as it will remain protective through several wash cycles. The CDC recommends the use of “EPA-registered insect repellents that contain DEET, picaridin, IR3535, oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE), para-menthane-diol (PMD), or 2-undecanone.” You can use the EPA’s insect repellant search tool to find what works best for you and your family and always follow product instructions.

When coming home from a potentially tick-infested area, it’s important to check your clothing and conduct a full body check. Use a handheld or full-length mirror to view all parts of your body. Remember what looks like a mole or freckle could be a tick. Specifically check your hairline, in/around ears, underarms, inside the belly button, waistline, between legs/crotch, and back of knees.

Showering within two hours of coming in from out of doors has been shown to reduce the risk of getting Lyme disease and may reduce the risk of other tick-borne diseases. Plus, a shower may help wash off unattached ticks and is an excellent place to conduct a full body check.

Finally, don’t forget to check your pets! Unfortunately, wild animals are not the only animals that carry ticks, and your best friends may wind up bringing them right into your home.

*DO NOT use insect repellent on babies under two months of age.

*DO NOT use products that contain OLE or PMD on children under three years of age.

*DO NOT “apply insect repellent to a child’s hands, eyes, mouth, cuts, or irritated skin, and spray insect repellent onto your hands and then apply to a child’s face.”