Summer Resource Guide

Summer has officially begun and RWJBarnabas Health wants to ensure that everyone stays safe and healthy during these hot summer days.

Here are 14 ways to be prepared for summer.

Heat Illnesses and Dehydration

1. Be Aware of Heat-related Illnesses.

There are three types of heat-related illnesses:

  • Heat cramps. This is the mildest form of heat illness and consists of painful muscle cramps and spasms that occur during or after intense exercise and sweating in high heat.
  • Heat exhaustion. More severe than heat cramps, heat exhaustion results from a loss of water and salt in the body.
  • Heat stroke. This is the most severe form of heat illness. It occurs when the body's heat-regulating system is overwhelmed by excessive heat.

2. Learn the Symptoms of Heat Stroke

Heat stroke is the most severe form of heat illness and is a life-threatening emergency. It is the result of long, extreme exposure to the sun.

Those most susceptible to heat stroke include:

  • Elderly
  • Infants
  • Individuals who work outdoors
  • People with mental illness
  • Those who are obese and/or have poor circulation

Many prescription and over-the-counter medications can also impact the way the body reacts in the heat, as can alcohol consumption. Some common drugs that may be phototoxic include antibiotics, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications such as ibuprofen and naproxen, cholesterol-lowering drugs, and some anti-depressants. It’s important to check with your physician or pharmacist to determine the impact of the medications you are taking.

The following are the most common symptoms of heat stroke. However, each individual may experience symptoms differently.

  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Disorientation, agitation or confusion
  • Sluggishness or fatigue
  • Seizure
  • Hot, dry skin that is flushed but not sweaty
  • A high body temperature
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Hallucinations

For more information on heat-related illnesses and first-aid measures for treatment, please visit http:/rwjbh.org/treatment-care/.

3. Know When you’re Dehydrated

Dehydration can be a serious heat-related disease that happens if an individual is overexposed to the sun and not drinking enough water. Children and people over the age of 60 are particularly susceptible to dehydration.

The following are the most common symptoms of dehydration. However, each individual may experience symptoms differently.

  • Thirst
  • Less-frequent urination
  • Dry skin
  • Fatigue
  • Light-headedness
  • Dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Dry mouth and mucous membranes
  • Increased heart rate and breathing

4. Use Car Caution

When outside temperatures rise, the mercury inside a vehicle can reach deadly levels in just 10 minutes, even with a window rolled down two inches. Children's bodies overheat easily, and infants and children under four years old are at the greatest risk for heat-related illnesses. Protect your children from the summer heat by following these tips:

  • Never leave a child unattended in a vehicle – even if the windows are open or the air conditioning is on.
  • Make a habit of looking in the vehicle – front and back – before locking the door and walking away.
  • Create reminders and habits, like writing a note or placing a purse or briefcase in the back seat to ensure that a child is not forgotten in a vehicle.
  • Teach children that a vehicle isn't a play area; store keys out of a child's reach.
  • Don't forget about your pets. They are also susceptible to the extreme heat of a car and can experience heat-related illnesses.

Staying Active

5. Keep Active

Summer is a time when the long days can be spent enjoying the fresh air and sunshine while swimming, riding bikes or exploring in the sand at the beach. Here are some tips to encourage you and your family to stay active this summer:

  • Rediscover a favorite sport. Whether you love the elegance of golf or the challenge of tennis, make time for these leisure activities. If possible, vary your activities over the course of each week to work different muscle groups.
  • Enjoy the great outdoors. When the weather cooperates, ride your bike, visit a local park for a hike, or simply go for a walk. These are all great exercises that get us outside and into the fresh air.
  • Get in the swim. Swimming is an excellent exercise choice, particularly if you have arthritis and/or joint pain or limited mobility. Consider joining a local fitness center with a pool or research if your community offers a pool for residents. Work in regular swims to meet your cardiovascular needs without straining your joints.

For more suggestions to keep you moving this summer, visit http://healthlibrary.barnabashealth.org/Wellness/Fitness/.

Safety Tips

6. Swim Smart

Drowning is the leading cause of injury death among children ages one to four, reinforcing the fact that children must be supervised every second! Keep children safe this summer by following these tips:

  • Actively supervise children in and around water.
  • Enroll your child in swimming lessons.
  • Never allow children to swim alone or dive into shallow or open water.
  • Insist children wear life jackets while walking on docks, near open water and on a boat.
  • Make sure a lifeguard is on duty before allowing children to go into the water.

When heading to the beach be sure to look for rip currents, a horizontal flow of water moving in the offshore direction. Rip currents don’t pull people under the water – they carry people away from the shore. Most victims of rip currents die of exhaustion, not drowning, because they tried to fight the rip current. If caught in a rip:

  • Don’t fight the current.
  • Swim out of the current, then to the shore.
  • If you can’t escape, float or tread water.
  • If you need help, call or wave for assistance.

7. Be Aware of Lightning

Follow the National Lightning Safety Institute slogan; "If you can see it, flee it. If you can hear it, clear it.”

  • Seek shelter immediately. Choose an enclosed space and stay inside. Avoid using electrical appliances or cell phones.
  • If you are trapped outside, crouch low with your feet together, your head tucked and your ears covered.
  • Do not huddle closely together. Space yourself at least 15 feet from one another if in a group, avoiding tall objects or trees.
  • Discard all metal objects such as golf clubs, baseball bats or fishing poles. If possible place an insulating object below your feet. A sleeping bag, jacket or coiled rope are good examples.

8. Check on Your Neighbors

To beat the heat this season, it's important to look out for your health and the health of those around you. While hot weather can be dangerous for anyone, people ages 60 and older are especially vulnerable to its threat, due to underlying health conditions that may make them less adaptable to the heat.

Skin Ailments

9. Check Your Skin

Skin self-exams are very important if you’re at risk for skin cancer. Get to know the pattern of moles, blemishes, freckles, and other marks on your skin. Any new moles or changes in existing moles should be checked by your health care provider right away.

The best time to do a skin self-exam is after a shower or bath. It’s important to look for changes when you do the self-exam. Do the exam the same way each time, so you don’t miss any part of your body. If needed, ask someone for help when checking your skin to ensure hard-to-see areas like your back and scalp are inspected.

10. Get the Buzz on Buzz Bites

While getting bug bites is a summer rite of passage, you can reduce the itching, swelling and pain that come along with mosquito, chigger, tick bites and more by following these tips:

  • Avoid brushy areas and high grass. If you venture into these areas, wear long pants and sleeves, and tuck your pant legs into your socks.
  • Use insect repellent when you're in wooded or brushy areas or if you will be spending time outdoors at a barbecue or pool party, even if it's just in your backyard. Those with DEET or picaridin as active ingredients typically provide protection that lasts longer than others, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
  • Check for ticks (from head to toe) after you have been outdoors. Don't forget about your pets. Thoroughly check cats and dogs for the parasite anytime they spend time outdoors.
  • Avoid wearing bright colors and perfume or other strong scents when you go outside.
  • To soothe itchy bites, use calamine lotion, an over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream, or antihistamine. An ice pack may help relieve itch and discomfort, too.

For information on bug bites and allergic reactions, please visit http://rwjbh.org/blog/2014/july/the-buzz-on-bug-bites

Prior to traveling abroad take precautions to help avoid the potential for travel related health complications prior to and during travel. International travelers should try to set up an appointment ideally 4 to 6 weeks before their trip. RWJBarnabas Health offers The Traveler's Resource at Clara Maass Medical Center and The TRIP Center at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center as reliable sources for providing travel-related health information, immunizations and preventative medications for your travel needs.

Breathing Easier

11. Spot Summer Allergies

Think you've had a summer cold? Summer allergies might actually be to blame. Here are some warning signs of allergies, courtesy of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology:

  • Dark circles below the eyes.
  • Swollen adenoids that cause the face to look tired and droopy.
  • A nasal crease, which is a line that forms on the bridge of the nose.
  • Breathing through the mouth due to nasal congestion.

For a referral to an allergy specialist please visit http://www.rwjbh.org/doctors/.

12. Breathe Easier

Whether the summer wind comes blowin' in from across the sea or from the heartland, the high heat and humidity that it can bring in New Jersey can be a challenge for those with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). COPD is an umbrella term for chronic bronchitis and emphysema, lung conditions primarily caused by smoking. Those with COPD are advised to stay indoors in an air-conditioned environment on the most hot and humid days of the year to prevent a flare-up of symptoms.

Other tips to breathe easier this summer include:

  • Drink plenty of fluids.
  • Wear appropriate clothing and sunscreen.
  • Plan activities carefully. If you have to go outside for an extended period, do so in the early morning or after sundown.
  • Park in shady areas.
  • Choose places that are air-conditioned.
  •  Use the buddy system. Have friends or family call at least twice a day to ensure you are OK.
  •  Avoid rigorous exercise or excess activity.
  •  Take medications as directed.
  •  Pay attention to weather reports and plan activities accordingly.

Healthy Cooking and Eating

13. Avoid Injuries Around the Barbecue Grill

The act of flipping a row of sizzling burgers on a barbecue grill is one of summer's simple pleasures. But there is danger lurking in those glowing embers, and the potential damage is far worse than a few charred cheeseburgers.

Because barbecue grills are operated in a casual, relaxed atmosphere, they tend to be taken for granted. And that can lead to serious injury, even death.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission offers these safety tips when using a charcoal grill:

  • Never burn charcoal inside your home, or inside vehicles, tents or campers. Charcoal should never be used indoors, even if you have ventilation.
  • Because charcoal produces CO until the charcoal is completely extinguished, never store a grill indoors with coals you have just burned.
  • Never use gasoline when starting a charcoal fire – it may explode. Use only approved charcoal lighter fluid.
  • Cap the starter fluid immediately after using it and store it a safe distance from the grill.

14. Eat Healthy

Summer is heating up and so is the season for vacations and barbecues, as millions of Americans plan to enjoy time with family and friends. While we celebrate the warm weather and the summer days ahead, it's important that we remain focused on maintaining a healthy diet — one of our best weapons in fighting cardiovascular disease and many other chronic illnesses.

For suggestions on how to eat heart healthy from the RWjBarnabas Health Heart Centers, visit http://www.rwjbh.org/blog/2014/august/eating-heart-smart-this-summer/.

While this information is helpful for helping to prepare for summer, it is always important to consult your physician about changes in your exercise routine or if you exhibit any of the symptoms for heat-related illnesses. For a referral to a physician, please visit http://www.rwjbh.org/doctors/.