10 essential summer safety tips

Summers in Alberta are filled with warmth, sunshine and lots of options for outdoor activities and festivals. Check out the following top 10 summer safety tips from Alberta Blue Cross to make sure you and your family have a fun and safe summer.

1. Practice sun safety

According to Alberta Health Services, approximately one in seven Albertans will develop a skin cancer in their lifetime—making it the most common type of cancer in Alberta. Prolonged sun exposure increases your risk of skin cancer and sunburns, and can damage your skin. Avoid sunburns by using a broad spectrum sunscreen that has a sun protection factor of at least SPF 30 and protects against both UVA and UVB rays. Apply sunscreen generously at least 20 minutes before you go outside and reapply every two hours, or more if you’ve been sweating or in the water. Protect your face and eyes by wearing a hat and sunglasses with a UVA/UVB certified seal.

2. Stay cool and hydrated

Sunshine combined with high temperatures can increase your risk of sunstroke and heat exhaustion, both of which can be life-threatening, especially for infants, young children and seniors. To avoid heat-related illnesses, it’s important to stay hydrated. Drink plenty of water before going out in the heat and during your time outside. Limit alcohol and caffeine consumption to avoid further dehydration, but increase your vitamin C intake as it provides a natural defense against heat stroke, exhaustion, cramps and heat rash. On hot days, wear light-coloured clothing, avoid sun exposure between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. and seek shade often. Never leave children or pets inside a parked vehicle.

3. Be safe in and on the water

Did you know between 30 and 40 Albertans drown each year? More than half of all drowning happens on weekends, and more than 80 per cent of victims are not wearing a life jacket. Emergency response teams can take upwards of 15 minutes to respond to a drowning call so a life jacket can make all the difference, especially in the event you’re knocked unconscious in the water. Don’t become a statistic—be prepared by ensuring you and your family are equipped with life jackets that are approved by Transport Canada and properly fitted to each individual. Children can drown in as little as one inch of water so never leave them unattended or unsupervised in or near water—even in a wading pool.

4. Avoid pesky bug bites

While the risk of getting a serious disease from a bug bite in Alberta is very low, it’s important to be aware of the risks and how you can prevent them. Take precautions at dawn and dusk, when mosquitoes are most active, and along trail edges in tall grass and wooded areas, where ticks are often found. Cover up with light-coloured clothing, which is less attractive to mosquitoes and allows you to see ticks more easily. Wear insect repellent, but apply sunscreen first. After being outdoors, check yourself, your children and your pets for ticks and bug bites. If you do get a bug bite, follow proper instructions on how to treat it in order to reduce your chance of infection or disease. You can find treatment instructions on MyHealth.Alberta.ca or by calling Health Link at 811. When necessary, seek medical attention.

5. Play safe

Alberta Health Services recommends that trampolines not be used in backyards or playgrounds. Hospitals across the province treated 1,919 children aged 0 to 14 years old for trampoline-related injuries in 2015, and each year, 1,750 children aged 5 to 14 are treated for playground injuries. Ensure that playground equipment is properly secured to the ground and teach children how to play safely. Always supervise children playing outdoors if they are under the age of 12—stay alert and close enough to take action if needed.

6. Wear a helmet

The Alberta Injury Prevention Centre states that emergency departments in Alberta see almost 7,000 bicycle-related injuries and almost 6,000 off-highway vehicle-related injuries each year. To protect yourself from injury, it is important to wear a helmet when on a bicycle, skateboard, scooter or inline skates, or when operating a motorized off-road vehicle. Alberta legislature states that a helmet is required for anyone operating a motorcycle or an off-highway vehicle, such as an ATV. Albertans under the age of 18 are required to wear a helmet when cycling. Make sure your helmet fits properly—it should be snug, level front to back, sit an inch above your eyebrows, and allow for two fingers to fit between your chin and the strap. Children should never wear a helmet on playground equipment as it can cause strangulation.

7. Camp safely

Plan ahead to be prepared for any situation when camping. Bring a map of the area and surrounding trails, and make sure someone is aware of where you’re headed. Bring clothing for all types of weather and always pack an emergency kit that includes a flashlight, a radio or cellphone, extra batteries and medical supplies. Avoid attracting bears to your campsite by keeping food, garbage and recyclables inside a vehicle or a hard-sided trailer. In the event of severe weather, seek shelter in a building or metal-roofed vehicle. Never stay in your tent.

8. Keep food fresh

Health Canada estimates that as many as 13 million cases of food-borne illness occur in Canada every year, and the risk of food poisoning rises in the hot, humid summer temperatures. Prepare and handle foods safely to reduce the risk of food-borne illness. Wash your hands thoroughly before and after handling food. Use hand sanitizer if you’re camping or on a picnic and don’t have access to soap. Keep food between 4 and 60 °C to prevent growth of harmful bacteria. Discard any cooked food that has been at room temperature for more than two hours. When in doubt, throw it out!

9. Don’t make your home an easy target

Decrease the possibility of someone robbing your home while you’re away on vacation by following some simple tips. Don’t mention going away or being on vacation on your social networking profiles. If family or friends mention your vacation on social media, delete those posts and messages promptly. Avoid geotagging photos or adding the location to status updates while on vacation. While you’re away, have friends or neighbours check in on your home to bring in your mail and identify any leaks or fire hazards that could become bigger problems. Furthermore, their comings and goings will make potential criminals think your house is occupied.

10. Make sure you’re covered when travelling

No one expects to be in an accident or struck by illness while on vacation, but unforeseen medical emergencies can happen. Without proper travel coverage, you could face potential financial burden with huge medical bills not covered by provincial health care. Never travel outside Alberta without emergency medical travel coverage for you and your family. Keep a copy of your health and travel coverage with you at all times, and a copy with a trusted emergency contact back home. Be sure to consult your doctor to get recommended vaccinations for your trip or if you have questions about the safety of travel due to a medical condition.

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