Safety Under The Sun

Area experts offer everyday summer safety tips.
Make your summer more enjoyable by following these safety tips.

We’ve waited all year for this. Finally, sweet summertime. However, staying safe under the sun requires some precautions. We checked in with local experts for common summer safety tips: Dr. Larry Richmond of Park Nicollet Clinic-Plymouth; Dr. Michael Garvis of South Lake Pediatrics in Plymouth; and Plymouth city officials.

Barbecuing safety tips

The city of Plymouth recommends establishing a grill safety zone 5 to 6 feet around the grill. Tell your children that only adults are allowed in the grill zone.

When using or storing a grill, the city says that barbecue grills should stay 10 feet away from any building; they should never be used on wooden decks nor under overhangs of garages, homes or decks. Keep match-light briquettes stored in a metal container with a secured lid.

If you burn yourself, a burn more than 1 square inch in size requires medical attention, according to Garvis, especially if the burn is on a small child or anywhere on your face or the palm of your hand.

Meat should stay cool until it’s time to heat it. “There’s a tendency for food ingredients to sit out too long when grilling,” Richmond says. As bacteria counts increase, so does the risk of food poisoning. To limit the risk of contamination, switch to clean utensils when you serve food.

Avoiding heat-related illness

Know what the heat index is when planning outdoor activities. “The higher the heat index, the more you need to take breaks, the more you need water and the more you need shade,” Garvis says. And staying hydrated means water, not Gatorade or other sports drinks.

Be mindful of the time of day. “In the summertime, come inside, get shade, hydrate and do not exert yourself midday,” Richmond says. Athletic practice or other activities with a lot of physical exertion are best done in the mornings or evenings.

Garvis tells of the signs and symptoms of heat-related illness: you may start to feel tired, act goofy or stop making sense. You may experience fast breathing or not sweating when you think you should. If you see someone suffering, they need to cool down quickly. Have them cool off in the pool or lake. If that’s not available, find shade or air conditioning indoors. And again, hydrate with water.

Avoiding sunburns

Skin cancer is the most common cancer. Richmond says to avoid peak sun from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., especially during summer months. If peak sun cannot be avoided, wear a hat, clothing and sunscreen, which should always be applied well in advance of going outdoors.

To limit sunburn, Garvis stresses sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher. Once is not enough; remember to reapply.

Try to keep babies in the shade with protective clothes on. If you can’t, Garvis advises a minimal amount of sunscreen to baby’s exposed skin; there is no official age recommendation for starting sunscreen.

Staying safe at swimming pools

Garvis says to reapply your sunscreen after getting out of the pool, even if the product claims to be waterproof.

Be careful when diving. “Generally, feet first is a good plan unless you know it to be very deep,” Richmond says. (At least 12 feet is a general rule of thumb for diving.)

Richmond also shares three critical components to protecting little ones at pools:

  • Put on life jackets before kids even get near the water. A child should wear a life jacket if you are by a pool or on a boat.
  • Invest in swimming lessons, specifically ones that emphasize survival skills, like getting out of the pool and getting your head above water.
  • Adult supervision at pools is critical. Try to avoid distractions like cellphones or iPads.