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Summer Survival Kit

Medical Author: Melissa Stöppler, MD
Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

If your summer includes relaxing on the beach, lake, or river, a well-planned survival kit can ensure that you have a fun and healthy experience. Don't forget the following items when packing your weekend bag:

  1. Sunscreen with adequate protection against both UVA and UVB rays. While sunscreen should be applied at home about a half hour before sun exposure, you'll need to re-apply more when you arrive. Studies show that most people apply far too little sunscreen, and the SPF of any product is reduced when it's applied too thinly. You'll need to reapply sunscreen after swimming or if you perspire a great deal.
  2. A watch of some type to recognize how long you've been in the sun. You also need to know when it's time to avoid sun exposure - from 10 am to 2 pm, when the sun's rays are most intense.
  3. A hat with a wide brim. This is even more effective than sunscreen in shielding the sensitive skin on the face and scalp from damaging UV radiation.
  4. Sunglasses to protect your eyes. Be sure that your sunglasses offer protection from at least 90% of UV radiation, preferably 99% to 100%. This information should be contained on the label when the sunglasses are purchased.
  5. Plenty of water to fight off dehydration. If it's terribly hot, you'll also run the risk of heat exhaustion. Drink plenty of fluids to stay cool and well-hydrated. Water or sports drinks are best; caffeinated or alcoholic beverages can actually worsen the effects of the heat.
  6. Snacks. If you've got perishable items, don't forget a cooler with plenty of ice to prevent food poisoning.
  7. Some kind of physical shelter from the sun. Bring an umbrella, blanket, or protective clothing in case you decide you've been in the sun too long or if you want to spend part of the day in the shade.
  8. Moisture lotion. With adequate sun protection and hydration, your skin shouldn't parch. But in case you do develop sunburn, a moisturizing lotion can provide some relief.
  9. Sandals or water shoes. Many coastal areas have rocky shores that may result in cuts to unprotected feet. Likewise, walking on hot sand can burn the sensitive skin on the soles of the foot.

If you like to enjoy a swim in the ocean, think safety first. The American Red Cross recommends swimming only in designated swimming areas, ideally with supervision by a lifeguard. Check the surf conditions before entering the water and look out for any warning signs or flags indicating hazardous conditions. You should always swim with someone else, and don't exhaust yourself - remember that you'll need energy to swim back to shore. Keep away from piers, docks, and pilings.

A word about rip currents

Finally, if you are going to the beach, be aware of rip currents; they are the leading surf hazard for all beach-goers. Over 100 drownings due to rip currents occur every year in the United States. More than 80% of water rescues on surf beaches are due to rip currents. Rip currents can be particularly dangerous if you do not know how to swim or are a weak swimmer. Rip currents can be very fast, so can sweep even the strongest swimmer out to sea.

REFERENCE: American Red Cross.


Last Editorial Review: 5/29/2013







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