by Samantha Brazeau-Wilson
With sandals, shorts and higher temperatures here to stay, are you ready to make the most of the season? By developing a summer protection plan, you can keep your family safe and well while enjoying the sunshine and outdoor activities.
Before heading outside for the day, check the UV index forecast. If you’re exposed and unprotected, UV rays can burn your skin, harm your eyes and cause skin cancer. When the UV index is three or higher, it’s time to take precautions.
Ottawa Public Health recommends the following tips to keep you and your family protected:
• Seek shade: Place a canopy or umbrella over the area you will be occupying.
• Between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m., limit your time in the sun. At all times, keep babies less than a year old out of direct sunlight.
• Use sunscreen. When choosing a product, aim for a broad-spectrum sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or higher. Apply generously 20 minutes before going out in the sun and repeat every two hours or after swimming, drying off or sweating. Do not apply sunscreen to babies; instead, keep them in a shaded area.
• Cover up. Wear a hat with a wide brim to protect your face, ears and neck. For even more protection, wear wraparound sunglasses with both UVA and UVB protection. Even babies should wear sunglasses.
• Stay hydrated. Drink plenty of cool liquids, especially water, to avoid dehydration and heat stroke. Don’t wait to feel thirsty. To help meet your fluid needs, add a bit of zest to your water with lemon, lime or orange slices, and eat more fruits and vegetables as they have higher water content.
West Nile Virus
Though the warm weather brings plenty of sunshine, it also brings mosquitoes. West Nile Virus (WNV) is an infection, spread by mosquitoes, that can cause serious illness. The virus is transmitted when an infected mosquito bites an animal or human. Most people will have no reaction, but in some cases they may experience flu-like symptoms or more severe health consequences.
While there is no exact way to predict the occurrence of WNV, if the temperature continues to rise, we can expect the number of infected mosquitoes to increase. You can protect yourself and your family by applying an approved mosquito repellent to exposed skin and clothing. Both sunscreen and insect repellent can be used together, but apply the sunscreen first, then add a small amount of insect repellent.
You can also help prevent the spread of WNV by reducing standing water sites on your property. Drain pails, doggie pools, birdbaths and anything that isn’t being used. When standing water is serving a purpose, change the water regularly.
If you’re planning to hit the beach this summer, choose to swim at one of Ottawa’s four supervised beaches. These include Britannia, Westboro, Mooney’s Bay and Petrie Island. Since there are lifeguards on duty and designated swim areas at these spots, your kids will be safer and you’ll be less anxious about them. Before you go, you can check ottawa.ca or call 3-1-1 for daily updates on water quality.
While swimming can be fun and refreshing, it is important to teach your family about water safety. Ottawa Drowning Prevention Coalition’s key water safety messages include keeping your children within arm’s reach in and around the water. Whether you’re in a swimming pool, hot tub, river, lake or pond, make sure they’re close enough you can grab them. Children and weaker swimmers should always wear lifejackets or personal flotation devices in and around the water. If you’ll be swimming in natural bodies of water, it is important to teach your children about water currents. Canadian Red Cross warns “swimmers or waders can be swept away in an instant, particularly if non-swimmers get caught by [a] current in rivers or out of their depth in abrupt drop-offs.”
Take advantage of the warm summer days, but remember safety comes first. Protect yourself and your family by always applying sunscreen and insect repellant prior to venturing outdoors. Plan ahead, too, before heading to the beach, pool or waterfront. A little extra effort will ensure your fun times stay that way.