Stay safe and healthy this summer with these tips

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BLOOMINGTON, Minn.—Summer means barbecues, sports, vacations, bike rides, swimming and boating. However, excessive heat exposure caused 8,966 deaths in the United States from 1979 to 2002, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“So many injuries and accidents occur in the summer because children are out of school, people are taking vacations, and outdoor activities and sporting events occur frequently,” says Ryne DeVries, DC, an associate professor and faculty clinician at Northwestern Health Sciences University in Bloomington, Minn. “Prevention tends to be the best defense to avoid visiting the emergency room.”

DeVries suggests the following tips to promote a fun, yet safe, summer:

Stay cool. Try to keep your body temperature regulated in hot weather to avoid heat cramps, heat exhaustion, or heat stroke, which can be deadly. Drink plenty of fluids, wear protective clothing, and stay in the shade whenever possible. Stop activity or call a doctor if you develop a headache, lose coordination, feel dizzy, develop muscle cramps, feel nauseous or stop sweating.

Always wear sunscreen. Overexposure to sunlight can result in uncomfortable and painful sunburned skin. Long-term overexposure to sunlight can lead to skin cancer, wrinkles, freckles, age spots, dilated blood vessels and skin texture changes. You can reduce your risk for skin cancer and permanent skin damage by using sun protection. Use a sunscreen that protects against both ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) rays and apply to the skin about every two hours. It is also important to wear sunglasses, a hat, and protective clothing when exposed to harmful rays.

Stay hydrated. “Proper hydration is essential during exercise, while playing sports, or on a hot day,” says Dr. DeVries.

Ease into activity. Many people prefer to exercise in the summer because of the warmer weather but fail to prepare properly. “If you haven’t exercised in the winter, gradually ease your way into a suitable workout regimen,” says DeVries. “Listen to your body. You can’t get back into shape in one week. The key is to have a plan and to stick with it. Also allow for recovery time between your workouts to avoid muscle or joint strain. If inflammation occurs, try icing or stretching the area.”

Bring a first aid kit. Always be prepared for accidents by bringing a first-aid kit on your bike ride or your camping trip. The kit should be stocked with sterile gloves, a cleansing agent, adhesive bandages, gauze, antibiotic and burn ointment, tweezers, scissors and pain reliever.

Wear the correct shoes. “With any kind of sport or activity, wearing the correct shoe is essential to avoid injury and to feel comfortable,” says DeVries. “There are so many different types of shoes for different activities. It is easy to find the pair that you need.”

Break up your summer trip driving. Whether you’re headed to the coast or on your way to the cabin, make sure to plan your trip accordingly to include driving breaks. “When driving for an extended period of time, you need to get out and move around about every hour,” says DeVries. “Stretch your arms, legs and back, and walk around. It is also important to position your seat as far forward as possible to avoid bending forward and to provide lumbar support to your lower back. Reposition your seat occasionally to promote movement.”

Drive safely. Warmer weather brings highway congestion and road construction, which makes accidents more likely to happen. To decrease your risk of an injury, always wear your seatbelt and make sure your car is “road ready” with a thorough inspection. It is also important to drive responsibly, avoid talking on your cell phone, eating, applying make-up or any other activity that may impair your driving.

For additional resources about avoiding summer injury or heat-related illness, visit, a Web site focusing on natural approaches to health and wellness hosted by Northwestern Health Sciences University.

The Natural News Service is a public information program provided by Northwestern Health Sciences University. The University offers an array of choices in natural health care education including chiropractic, Oriental medicine, acupuncture, therapeutic massage and integrative health and wellness.

from the June 20-26, 2007, issue

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