Summer is my favourite season. Blue skies, barbeques, sun-naps, swimming, camping, and hiking make it an ideal time to get outside and have some fun. With all these summer-specific activities comes unique risks that are uncommon in colder weather.
Today we’ll look at 7 Summer Safety Hazards as described by Doctor Ryan Stanton. These are the top injuries and ailments that he sees this time of year, along with how to avoid them. Read on to learn about minimizing your risk and keeping you and yours safe and healthy this summer.
1. Mower Accidents
If you get no further into this article than this, at least read these words: Do not stick your fingers into a lawnmower. EVER.
Or your toes, or anything else that is a part of you. The blade might have stopped, but as long as the spark plug is in the machine it can resume again with no warning. Unless you are the Flash, you can’t dodge that. The spark plug can be disengaged or removed, at which point it is safe to work on/with the blades. A professional can show you where it is and how to disengage it.
Sticking fingers into a lawn mower is not the only way Dr Stanton sees people get hurt. The spinning blades can catch rocks and sticks and fling them at high speeds towards the operator. I once read a story about a woman who ran over a nail with her lawn mower. The blades caught it and propelled it towards her heart. Happily, it was caught by her Wonderbra before it could do any significant harm.
Here are Dr Stanton’s tips to keeping safe while pushing around spinning blades of doom:
- Wear protective shoes and clothing. I know it ruins a good tanning opportunity, but it’ll be worth it. Closed or steel toed shoes, long pants, goggles or sunglasses, and work gloves are ideal.
- Keep kids away from lawnmowers, or teach them proper safety procedures. If they can’t respect that the mower is a dangerous tool, they shouldn’t be allowed near it.
- Get a professional to service your lawn mower.
- Wear a Wonderbra for mowing. (Okay, that’s my tip – but I’m sure the good doctor would agree!)
2. Boating Injuries
The sun’s out, the water’s clear, so it’s time to clamber aboard the Aquaholic for some fun! Tubing, fishing, sailing, or chugging along in a hot-tub boat are all perfect ways to spend a summer afternoon. But, alas, as with most large motor equipment, boats come with their own set of risks.
Most boat accidents are caused by inclement weather or drunk-driving. Be sure whoever is acting as skipper (driver) for your trip is sober and has a boater’s license. Check the weather before you head out and keep an eye on the sky during your trip.
I can’t talk about boat safety without mentioning lifejackets. Although some regions only state that the lifejackets need to be available and on board, encourage everyone to wear them, especially when the boat is moving at speed. Children should always wear floatation devices on board the vessel. If someone loses consciousness in the water they risk drowning and being hit by a propeller. These are less likely if they are floating where help can reach them.
If you’re planning a boat trip, especially if there will be children present, consider taking some basic first aid and life-saving courses. They usually take one day or less and can often be found through your local rec centre. Basic CPR and chest compressions alone can go a long way towards saving someone who has inhaled too much water. If you’re cautious around mouth-to-mouth you can find masks with one way valves- specifically designed to only allow air to flow one way, eliminating your risk of contamination.
Did you know that people who die of dehydration in the desert often do so with water left in their canteens? They believe that if they have water, they can’t die of dehydration. Surprise! That only works if you drink it!
While you’re out and about in summer weather be sure to bring water with you and keep some in your car. Drink regularly and deeply. Your body will thank you for it.
How do you know if you haven’t drunk enough fluids? You’ll get dizzy and light-headed. If you’re hot but have stopped sweating you could have heatstroke, the most severe form of dehydration. Other symptoms include hallucinations, unconsciousness, and even seizures.
Drinking any kind of fluid will help reduce dehydration, but water is best. Try to get any high-energy activities done early, before it gets hot, or in the evening when it cools off. If you are out in the sun take plenty of shade breaks.
If you encounter someone who has heatstroke take them indoors or into the shade and cool them off with ice packs and cool cloths. Have them lie down. If you don’t see improvement within ten minutes consider taking them to the emergency room to get intravenous fluids.
4. Sunburn & Skin Damage
We all know that harsh, bright pain of a sunburn, but did you know that every sunburn increases your risk of skin cancer? Having just five sunburns in your life doubles your chances for melanoma. On top of that, they itch, they hurt, and they peel. Really severe sunburns can even blister! 🤢
Sunburns are a form of radiation burn caused by over exposure to the sun’s UVA and UVB rays. They are similar to thermal burns and can be fatal in really extreme cases. The sun’s rays cause direct DNA damage which triggers the redness and pain. Damage can cause cell death and the body replaces the skin through peeling.
As you probably guessed, covering up when you go in the sunshine and sticking to shady areas are the best thing you can do to avoid burns. If you are going in the sun, wear sunscreen. All sunscreens have an SPF rating to let you know how strong they are. SPF 30 rating is best as higher ratings don’t offer significantly more protection, only an exaggerated sense of security. Reapply every 2 hours and use about 30ml if covering your whole body (2mg/square cm of skin).
5. Picnics Gone Wrong
Ah, summer. The time for hiking, enjoying the great outdoors, and… food poisoning?! Oh dear! That’s not how anyone wants to spend the most beautiful months of the year.
While I’ve been very lucky to have avoided food poisoning in my life, I tremble in fear every time a friend or relative tells horror stories of a weekend spent wrapped around a toilet in misery. Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea are the primary symptoms of food poisoning – those, and perhaps a new appreciation for easy-clean porcelain.
Food poisoning is caused by ingesting harmful bacteria. These bacteria love to grow on room temperature foods, favouring dairy, eggs (including mayonnaise), fish, and meat above all else. It only takes a couple of hours for unrefridgerated foods to grow the bacteria needed to sicken a whole party of guests.
Keep perishable foods refrigerated until the last possible moment before leaving on a picnic. Transport them in a cooler with ice to slow any bacterial growth. When packing the cooler be sure to put the items you intend to use first on top, so you don’t need to rummage and let all the cold out to find one thing.
If you’ll be grilling bring a meat thermometer. The outside of meat can sear very quickly, making it hard to tell if your filet is cooked all the way through. Steaks should be cooked to a minimum internal temperature of 63 degrees Celsius, ground beef and pork to 72 degrees, and poultry to 74 degrees.
Keep your hands and cooking area clean and use a different cutting board for raw meats. Be sure your meat is wrapped thoroughly and kept away from other items (breads, fruits, chips, etc).
If you do get sick, eat small portions of bland food when you are able, and sip lots of water or tea. If symptoms persist for more than a couple of days (or 24 hours in children) see a doctor.
6. Firework Fiascos
Before fireworks were restricted in my area there was an annual summer tradition of ‘firework battles’ between groups of thrill-seeking young people. Everyone wore their most protective clothing, split into teams, and proceeded to launch fireworks directly at each other. Suffice to say, there were some heinous injuries, a handful of fires, and it was a miracle no one was killed.
Nowadays consumer fireworks are banned in many Canadian cities and restricted in others. Some small pyrotechnics are still easy to get, like sparklers, but even these burn hot enough to melt metal and cause plenty of burns and eye damage every year. If you do make the choice to give sparklers to children, supervise them closely and make sure they are treating them with due caution. No ‘swordfights’ please.
If you or someone less careful than you does get burned by a firework wrap it in a clean t-shirt or towel saturated with cool water. If the burn looks severe or covers a significant portion of skin, take them to the emergency room.
7. Stings Bite
Bees and wasps and hornets, oh my! Not to mention the mosquitos! Summer time is positively buzzing with insects that can cause anything from mild discomfort, to death in extreme situations. Many Canadians are allergic to bee/wasp/hornet stings and can break out in hives or have their windpipe swell closed. Even people without allergies can go into shock if they suffer from many stings at once.
If you have a life-threatening allergy (or if your child does) be sure to always have an EpiPen close at hand. These are usually spring-loaded injections of epinephrine that can ease and slow a reaction. Administer them as soon as any reaction begins, especially if the subject is having trouble breathing. Most allergic reactions outlast the results of an EpiPen so be sure to get to a hospital for observance and additional treatment. EpiPens buy you time. They are not a cure.
If you have mild allergies (hives over a small portion of your body for example) take an antihistamine to combat the symptoms. Pro tip: these also help with itchy mosquito bites.
To avoid stinging insects all together wear light coloured clothing and avoid perfumes. Floral prints, dark colours, and sweet scents attract these insects. If you’re eating or drinking guard your food and drinks from wasps. It may seem simpler to just let the wasp take what it can carry, but he’ll tell his friends and they’ll all be back to freeload within minutes.
While hiking keep an ear tuned in for buzzing, and stay on designated trails. While most stinging bugs make their homes in trees (or housing eaves) mud wasps nest in the ground and are very irate if disturbed. If you come across a hive on your property, do your research on how to safely remove it, or hire a professional. Do not allow your children to ‘play’ with hives.
At Total Prepare we wish you a fun, safe, and hazard-free summer, but for times when avoiding the hazards is impossible we hope the above tips on boat safety, mower accidents, dehydration, sun protection, allergies, and food poisoning help you to deal with each in the safest possible way.
Thank you for reading.
This article was written by Zenia Platten – Author of Tethered and Emergency Preparedness Professional.