By Torri Singer
Taking care to avoid the downside of summer
After enduring New Jersey winters, residents highly anticipate summer at the shore. But, while everyone’s eager to get active in the sun, there are risks associated with summer months that many often overlook or ignore.
Dr. Stephanie Reynolds of Riverview Medical Center, Red Bank, believes everyone should mix the fun with some necessary precautions to make this summer a safe one.
Summertime means a lot of time spent outdoors. After all, who wants to be cooped up indoors when it’s finally time to break out the bathing suits and bikes? Hiking, jogging, picnicking, and hitting the beach and pool are all common outings for a typical summer day. However there are precautions to take to protect us and our families from getting sick or injured. Bugbites, dehydration, water-related injuries and heatstroke are a few of the many risks everyone should be aware of and take precautions against for summer activities.
“We see a lot of pedestrian and bicyclist accidents in the summer,” said Reynolds, medical director at Riverview’s Emergency Care Center.
Reynolds suggests wearing bright clothing and proper protective gear can make the difference between a nice evening stroll and a trip to the ER.
Many outdoor summer activities involve water sports, and, unfortunately, boating accidents on the Navesink and Shrewsbury rivers are a common and sometimes preventable occurrence. The lesson stressed by authorities is that boating can be dangerous enough – so don’t drink and boat.
“People underestimate the toll that the sun can take on you. You’re drinking, the alcohol adds up. You’re sweating out liquids. You’re becoming dehydrated. You’re tired from the sun,” Reynolds said.
Hours spent in the sun also means drinking fluids is a must, but the type of drink that is chosen is important, according to Reynolds.
“If you’re not well-hydrated and well-protected, or you drink something like ice tea that is caffeinated, it is a diuretic. You lose liquid, and if you’re unable to sweat, you can’t cool off,” she said.
Dehydration can result in dizziness, heatstroke and heart attacks. Reynolds suggests that a good rule of thumb is that a person weighing 150 pounds should drink 75 ounces of water a day. That means people should drink the number of ounces that is half their body weight, she said.
Headed to the beach?
Now that the beaches torn up by Super Storm Sandy are rebuilding and gearing up for beach season, many families are anticipating days spent at the ocean and poolside.
Jim Foley, manager of Sea Bright’s beach is in charge of overseeing all aspects of the beach and beach safety.
“The biggest issue for the entire state of New Jersey is the swimmers who wait until after 5 o’clock at night, when the lifeguards go off duty,” Foley said. “I think it’s mostly to avoid paying to go to the beach, so they’ll wait until the ticket offices close and they’ll swim in unprotected waters.”
Saving a few dollars isn’t worth risking dangerous currents or riptides when lifeguards aren’t on duty, he said. Inexperienced swimmers are a concern when the beaches aren’t guarded and surf is unpredictable.
Sea Bright beach has a daily patrol to monitor debris on the beach that may have been swept into the ocean after Super Storm Sandy, but beachgoers should still be cautious.
“Be aware,” Foley said. “If you see something, say something. Everything in Sea Bright got washed off into the river, but we could be getting debris floating down from Long Island or New York that did get washed into the ocean,” said Foley.
Lastly, one of the most important summer rules: Don’t skimp on the sunscreen.
The myth that darker skin types don’t burn simply doesn’t hold up, Reynolds said.
Protecting skin from harmful UVA and UVB rays is important to prevent painful burns, sun poisoning and skin cancer – the most common cancer in the United States.
Experts recommend that everyone use sunscreen with a minimum SPF of 50. Though many opt for a much lower SPF or forego sunscreen altogether, the consequences can be deadly so it’s better to be safe than sorry where the sun is concerned.
Many don’t realize that no sunblock is waterproof, so reapplication is key – especially to areas that Reynolds points out are commonly missed, including lips, ears and tops of feet.
“You can handle any of the changes of the seasons if your body is ready for it,” she said.