Summer is around the corner, and we’re already springing outdoors for swimming, boating, biking, hiking, camping and playground romping.
AccuWeather already has made its summer forecast. Thanks to fading El Niño conditions, it says you can expect some changes in the coming season:
In much of the eastern United States, a hot summer is in store.
Rain and thunderstorms will dominate the pattern in the central and southern Plains, while the opposite occurs in California and the Northwest, and scarce rainfall leads to severe drought conditions.
Outdoor activities carry safety and injury risks, but a few precautions can keep your adventures under the sun and stars from turning into a season of dramas and traumas.
Here are six ways to stay safe:
1. Minimize the risk of mosquito virus
In 2015, 48 states and the District of Columbia reported West Nile virus infections in people, birds or mosquitoes, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says.
Overall, 2,060 cases in people were reported to the CDC. Of these, 1,360 (66 percent) were neuroinvasive (such as meningitis or encephalitis) and 700 (34 percent) were non-neuroinvasive.
Most people will develop no symptoms. About 1 in 5 infected people will develop a fever with other symptoms. A few — less than 1 percent of those infected — will develop a serious, sometimes fatal, neurologic illness.
No medications can treat West Nile, and no vaccine can prevent it, according to the CDC.
This year, people also will worry about the threat of Zika virus. The CDC already has warned that the virus — linked to a broad array of birth defects — is “a bit scarier than we initially thought.”
So CDC experts advise that you reduce the risk of infection by using insect repellent and wearing protective clothing to prevent mosquito bites. For more on repellents, check out “The 5 Best Repellents for Zika Virus Mosquitoes.”
To keep mosquitoes away, install or repair screens on windows and doors. Also, regularly empty standing water from flowerpots, gutters, buckets, pool covers, pet water dishes, discarded tires and birdbaths.
2. Keep Lyme disease at bay
Blacklegged ticks spread Lyme disease, the CDC says. Symptoms include fever, headache, fatigue and a skin rash called erythema migrans. If left untreated, infection can spread to joints, the heart and the nervous system.
The CDC reported more than 25,000 confirmed Lyme disease cases in 2014, the latest figures available. More than 8,000 other cases were “probable,” but unconfirmed. About 96 percent of confirmed cases occurred in just 14 states, mostly in the Northeast and Midwest.
You can avoid tick bites by staying away from wooded and bushy areas with high grass and leaf litter, and wearing repellant containing 20 to 30 percent DEET on your skin and 0.5 percent permethrin on clothing.
Bathe or shower as soon as possible after coming indoors to wash off ticks and more easily find any left crawling on you. Parents should check their children, and pet owners should examine their furry friends.
3. Protect yourself from the sun
Slather on the sunblock — with an SPF (sun protection factor) of at least 15 and UVA (ultraviolet A) and UVB (ultraviolet B) protection, the CDC and other health officials advise.
Just a few serious sunburns can increase your risk of skin cancer later in life. Also wear light materials that cover your skin. Make applying sunscreen an everyday habit.
4. Remain hydrated
Dehydration can lead to heat exhaustion and heat stroke. So drink, drink, drink — water especially, but also beverages with electrolytes to replenish fluids and sodium lost through exertion.
Symptoms of heat exhaustion include fatigue, dizziness, headaches and nausea.
Meanwhile, signs of heat stroke include red-hot dry skin from lack of sweat, confusion and delirium. These indicate a medical emergency — call 911 immediately.
Carry water in an insulated bottle or canteen. Eat foods that are high in water content, such as watermelon.
Remember, if you’re thirsty, you’re already dehydrated. So keep drinking regularly — don’t wait until thirst strikes.
5. Stay safe on the playground
Emergency departments treat more than 200,000 children ages 14 and younger for playground-related injuries, the CDC says.
Choose parks and playgrounds that have shock-absorbing surfaces. Check playground equipment before letting children touch them — the surfaces can reach temperatures hot enough to burn a child.
Teach children not to shove. Remind children to swing sitting down and to wait until the swing stops before getting off.
6. Follow water safety rules
In 2014, there were 4,064 boating accidents that involved 610 deaths and 2,678 injuries, the U.S. Coast Guard says.
Children should wear Coast Guard-approved, properly fitted life jackets while on boats, around open water or when participating in water sports. In 2014, 84 percent of drowning victims were not wearing life jackets.
Actively supervise children around water, even if lifeguards are present. At a pool, do not allow anyone to play around drains and suction fittings.
Two to three children drown every day, the CDC says. Before going on vacation, take advantage of crash-course swimming lessons to improve your or children’s swimming skills, if needed.
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