Summer Survival Kit
Medical Author: Melissa Stöppler, MD
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Plenty of water to fight
off dehydration. If it's terribly hot, you'll also run the risk of
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.
- Snacks. If you've got
perishable items, don't forget a cooler with plenty of ice to prevent
- 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.
- Moisture lotion. With adequate sun protection and
hydration, your skin shouldn't parch. But in case you do develop
moisturizing lotion can provide some relief.
- 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
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
REFERENCE: American Red Cross.Last Editorial Review: 5/29/2013