Teach Kids to Swim
It's never too early to acclimate your child to water, since knowing how to swim could save their life. Swimming is a basic life skill, like reading or biking, and every child should learn. If you're boating, make sure everyone wears a life jacket. When a young child suddenly disappears near water, check the water first. It's hard to see a child who’s sunk to the bottom of a crowded pool. Designate an adult "water watcher" when kids are playing in the pool.
Beware on the Beaches
There's a reason Sonoma Coast beaches don't have lifeguards – it's not safe to swim there! Not only is the water very cold, but rip tides, backwash, and sneaker waves make swimming and even wading too dangerous. Keep youngsters a safe distance from the water’s edge. If you go to a Russian River beach, keep in mind that some areas have a sudden drop off where little waders can lose their footing.
Eat, Drink, and be Merry
Eating Al Fresco
Bacteria grow faster when it's warm out, and nothing spoils a picnic like spoiled food. Keep raw foods chilled until you're ready to grill or serve them, and refrigerate cooked leftovers within one hour if it’s more than 90°F outside. Toss out marinade that's been used on raw meat or seafood.
Know the Grill
If you're barbecuing, make sure your grill is clean. Watch out for hungry pets and curious kids, and never leave the grill unattended! Use a food thermometer to make sure meat is sufficiently cooked (145°F for beef, pork, and fish; 160°F for ground meats; 165°F for chicken or turkey). Make sure to grill at least 10 feet away from your home and keep a fire extinguisher and hose handy.
Accidents happen when people drive, boat, bike, surf, swim, dive, or ride a jet ski under the influence. Even if you're just chilling with friends in your own backyard, drinking too much increases your risk for dehydration, heat exhaustion, and even heatstroke.
On the Move
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), Summer is peak accident season. Teen drivers are out of school and on the roads. Alcohol consumption is up, and hot weather increases the chance of car trouble and blow outs. Not everyone drives as well as you do, so watch out for the others on the road, and be sure to get your car serviced before a long car trip.
Remember, the rules of the road don't just apply to cars. Brush up on bike safety laws by reading the California vehicle code for bicycles. Always ride in the direction of traffic. Stop at red lights and stop signs, give pedestrians the right of way in the crosswalk, and stay off the sidewalk. Wear a helmet even to ride to the corner store and don’t wear dark clothing to ride at night.
Check Your Car After Parking
On a 78 degree day, the inside of a parked car can reach up to 120 degrees within minutes! If you see a person or animal trapped in a hot car, call 911 immediately.
Watch Your Step!
We all love the sensation of grass between our toes but going barefoot has its drawbacks. You could step on a bee, a piece of broken glass, or even a snake. Slip on some shoes, at least once you leave the yard. Flip flops are convenient, but don’t wear them to walk long distances. The lack of foot support can lead to foot pain, back pain, and tendonitis. If you're mowing the lawn, close-toed shoes are a must, along with long pants and safety goggles.
Pack your Backpack
The Boy Scouts have it right: Be prepared. Always tell someone where you’re going, especially if you're hiking alone. Check the hike's difficulty in advance so you don't take on more than your knees – or fitness level – can handle. Avoid hiking at the hottest time of day and wear sunglasses, sun screen, and a hat. Pack a flashlight, plenty of water, electrolyte drink mixes to maintain your sodium and potassium levels, and some trail mix for an energy boost. Remember to bring water and a bowl for your canine companion! Keep a first aid kit in your bag, including:
- Band-Aids, gauze, tape, and antibiotic ointment
- Bug spray to discourage ticks and mosquitos
- Sunscreen with at least SPF 30 – preferably even higher
- Hydrocortisone cream for itchy bug bites or poison oak
- Poison ivy/oak wipes to immediately wipe off your skin if you come into contact with poison ivy/oak
Pay Attention to Your Surroundings
Put away your earbuds and pay attention! Know what poison oak and stinging nettles look like. Keep an eye out for snakes – that log or boulder you're about to sit on could be sheltering a rattler. If you encounter a mountain lion or coyote, stay calm, maintain eye contact, and back away slowly, facing the animal. Do not run – these animals are faster than you and associate running with prey. If you have a small child or dog with you, try to pick them up without bending over. Biologists believe mountain lions don’t recognize standing humans as prey, but once you crouch down, they may view you as a potential meal. NEVER confront or approach a mountain lion.
Fun Out of the Sun
Protect Yourself from Sunburn
At least 20 minutes before you go out in the sun, slather on a broad-spectrum sunscreen that's at least an SPF 30. Make sure you don't miss a spot – those feet and ears can burn too! Reapply every 2 hours and whenever you get out of the water or are sweating a lot. Wear a wide brimmed hat and sunglasses with 100% UV protection. Keep an eye on the kids, who tend to spend a lot of time in the water and require frequent sunscreen applications. Throw away last summer's sunscreen–it only retains its potency for a year or two.
Don't Let the Heat Beat You
Dehydration, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke are a continuum. If dehydration is not addressed, it will lead to heat exhaustion and eventually heat stroke, which can be fatal. If the forecast predicts extreme heat, that's no time to go for a long uphill hike or bike ride! Plan outdoor activities for before 11 a.m. or after 5 p.m. and always carry water with you.
This article first appeared in the June 2023 edition of the HealthPerks newsletter.