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Published on Wednesday, May 24, 2023

Be summer wise this year

By Sarah Milne,

Health Promoter, Grey Bruce Health Unit

 

At long last, summer weather has arrived.

And as the warmer temperatures and sunshine bring more of us outside, it’s important to remember the potential risks of moving around in our natural world, including those posed by the sun’s rays, waterways and mosquitoes.

Overexposure to ultra-violet radiation can have adverse health effects, including sunburn, premature aging, skin cancers, eye diseases and immune suppression. Leaving skin exposed at any age can cause irreversible damage and, if left unprotected, lead to skin cancers.

Sun exposure in childhood is linked to a greater risk of developing skin cancers later in life than sun exposure as an adult. In 2014, there were an estimated 39,400 skin cancer cases in Ontario, making it the most common type of cancer. To reduce your risk, check the UV Index daily and follow the recommendations for protection.

Other sun safe recommendations include:

  • Wearing sunglasses with UV-protective lenses throughout the year, especially when around snow, sand or water. Try to get tight-fitting glasses labelled “UV400” or “100% UV protection.”
  • Seeking shade whenever possible (or carry your own).
  • Wearing a wide-brimmed hat and clothing that covers as much skin as possible.
  • Using a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 and a label that says both “broad spectrum” and “water-resistant.” Apply it generously to areas that are not covered by your clothing and re-apply it periodically. Lip balm with sunscreen is also recommended.

Never use UV tanning equipment or try to get a tan. Always avoid sunburns.

Some people are concerned about getting enough Vitamin D if they minimize exposure to the sun. But remember, you can get the Vitamin D you need from food sources and supplements. Sticking to no more than 10-15 minutes of exposure two to three times a week is way more than enough for the body to produce Vitamin D. Remember, tanned skin is actually damaged skin, and as millions of Canadians can attest, the skin does not forget, and over time, will not be able to repair itself.

Recently, there were concerns about benzene contamination in sunscreen. The Canadian Dermatological Association (CDA) issued a statement on a report released in the US last June that followed an investigation of 294 sunscreen and after-sun products. The report found that these sunscreens in the US contained detectable levels of benzene, a known carcinogen. A similar finding has not been demonstrated in Canada. The CDA continues to recommend the use of sunscreen and states the benzene contamination was likely due to a manufacturing process and was not a listed product ingredient.

 

BEWARE OF MOSQUITOES

West Nile Virus is carried by mosquitoes that become infected by feeding on an infected bird.

Of the 57 mosquito species in Ontario, only 13 are capable of transmitting the virus.

If an infected mosquito bites you, it can spread the disease to you. West Nile Virus (WNV) cannot generally spread from person to person. Everyone in Ontario who spends time near infected mosquitos could get WNV.

In most parts of Canada, the risk of becoming infected with WNV starts in mid-April and continues until the first hard frost in the fall. Humans are most at risk between mid-July and early September.

Symptoms of WNV usually develop two to 14 days after being bitten by an infected mosquito. Approximately 80 per cent of people infected will not show any symptoms. Of the 20 per cent who do, most experience mild illness with symptoms such as fever, headache, body aches, fatigue, skin rash and, occasionally, vomiting and nausea. Less than one per cent of those infected with WNV experience severe illness involving the central nervous system.

The risk of exposure to WNV around the home can be reduced by eliminating mosquito breeding sites, including standing water in places like bird baths, eavestroughs, flower pots and discarded tires; by wearing protective clothing; always using an approved insect repellent when outdoors at dawn and dusk; and by preventing mosquito entry into the home.

When applying sunscreen, apply sunscreen before repellant.

Insect repellents containing DEET can be used safely when applied as directed and in the right concentration, depending on age.

The right concentration of DEET for: those aged 12 and up is up to 30%; children aged two to 12 is up to 10% (you can apply the product up to 3 times daily); and children aged six months to 2 years old is up to 10% (you should not apply the product more than once a day).

For children younger than 12 years old, do not use a DEET product on a daily basis for more than a month.

Do not use an insect repellent with DEET on infants under six months. Use a mosquito net when babies are outdoors.

 

BE WATER WISE

The waterways of Grey-Bruce beckon residents and visitors to come out and play. But the idyllic images of life by the water mask potential dangers for the unprepared.

In the 2020 Royal Lifesaving Society’s Drowning Report, 465 Canadians experienced water-related fatalities, with 63 per cent occurring in a lake, pond or river. One in five water-related fatalities are children under age 5.

In Ontario in 2021, the OPP reported that 86 per cent of fatalities over the past 11 years were the result of a failure to wear a personal flotation device (PFD). Many of these are boating-related.

Review the Transport Canada Safe Boating Guide checklist and detailed descriptions of the safety equipment required on various boats.

If you enjoy paddle-boarding, be sure to check out the requirements for Stand-Up Paddleboards on the Paddle Canada website.

Even on hot days, local waterways will be colder than you think, particularly Georgian Bay. Low temperatures, even as warm as 15 C, can cause cold-water shock. It’s our body’s reaction to sudden immersion into cold water and causes hyperventilation and your blood to rush away from your muscles to protect your organs, leaving your limbs and muscles to become fatigued quickly, leading to drowning. One of the best ways to prevent drowning is to wear a lifejacket or PFD. Having a lifejacket on before falling into cold water will keep you afloat, giving you time to regain control of your breathing and muscles.

Not only can the waters be cold, but Georgian Bay, Lake Huron and other large bodies of water experience a Rip Current. Rip Currents, (also known, incorrectly, as undertow or rip tides) are a dangerous phenomenon that many people know exist, but don't know much about. Rip currents can occur on most beaches, particularly around piers. Be familiar with currents in bodies of water and wear PFD at all times when boating. Weaker swimmers and young children should wear a properly-sized lifejacket.

It is also advisable to avoid using inflatables at the beach, lakes or rivers especially with offshore breezes and strong winds. Children who enjoy these colourful toys should not use these alone or near water. If you do go out and are unable to return to shore – Stay on it! Put your hands in the air, shout loudly for help, stay calm and wait to be rescued. Never leave a child unattended in or near water, and always designate an adult Water Watcher.

You can further reduce your risks by becoming a strong and prepared swimmer by taking courses that include water safety, wearing a PFD, and always swimming with a buddy.

Summer time is can be an enjoyable time of year and reducing your risks of injury and illness can help to make this happen.

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