Birmingham loves summer. Whether it’s because it presents the perfect opportunity for the annual getaway or because of the additional amount of sunshine on these deliciously long, summer days, summer, not winter, is truly the season to be jolly.
The National Safety Council (NSC), however, reminds us that July and August are the deadliest times of the year. From heat-related illnesses to burns and drownings, summer events present all kinds of safety hazards.
The statistics are chilling: Between 2005 and 2014, there were about 10 drowning deaths every day in the United States. If you add in boating-related drownings, increase that number to about 11, according to the Centers for Disease Control. In 2013, 69 people drowned in Alabama alone.
Local news stories invariably quote parents as saying they only looked away for a moment. But, that’s all it takes. The CDC cautions parents to remain vigilant when your child is in or near water. Don’t depend on a lifeguard or anyone else and don’t become distracted.
Additional tips to avoid drowning incidents include:
- Never swim alone
- Should you get caught in a current, remain calm and don’t fight against it. Float with it or swim parallel to the shore.
- Alcohol and swimming don’t mix. In fact, the CDC claims that alcohol was a contributing factor in half of male teen drownings.
Prevent heat stroke
Heatstroke – The most serious of the three, heatstroke occurs when a person’s body temperature rises quicker than the body’s ability to sweat. The NSC says that “The brain and vital organs are effectively ‘cooked’ as body temperature rises to a dangerous level in a matter of minutes. Heatstroke is often fatal, and those who do survive may have permanent damage to their organs.”
Symptoms of heat stroke include skin that is overly hot to the touch, confusion, coma and seizures. The NSC recommends that someone suffering from heat stroke must be placed in a half-sitting position in a shady spot, spray him or her with water and fan vigorously and, if the humidity level is more than 75 percent, apply ice to the armpits, neck or groin.
Don’t give the victim anything to drink or any pain relievers, such as acetaminophen or aspirin. And call for medical help right away.
Heat exhaustion — The symptoms of heat exhaustion mimic those of the flu and include fatigue, thirst, nausea, headache, and vomiting. The person may sweat profusely and the skin will appear pale and feel clammy.
“Uncontrolled heat exhaustion can evolve into heatstroke, so make sure to treat the victim quickly,” cautions the NSC. Move the victim to an air-conditioned area if possible, otherwise, find a shady spot, give him or her water to drink and apply wet towels to the body. A cool shower is also recommended.
Heat cramps – When you exercise in extreme heat you may suffer muscle spasms and cramps, typically in the abdominal muscles or legs. These cramps are the result of a lack of salt in the body due to excessive sweating. Relieve them by sitting in the shade, drinking sports drinks, stretching and seeing a doctor if the symptoms aren’t relieved within one hour.
Summer safety for your pet
Dogs get sunburned too, so the ASPCA suggests that if your dog will be spending time in the sun this summer, slather on the sunscreen. Choose a brand that doesn’t contain fragrance and contains properties that block both UVA and UVB rays.
We all know not to leave kids and pets in cars on warm days – even for just a few minutes. Heat stroke can occur within moments. But, it can also happen outside the confines of a hot car in the Birmingham sun, when a dog is overactive on a warm day.
Robert Spencer suggests keeping your pets hydrated as the best way to keep them safe in the Alabama summer heat. Also, keep your pets out of direct sun or inside your home at the hottest time of day. If your pet is drooling excessively, its gums are dry and it feels hot to the touch, get it into the shade or indoors quickly. Slowly cool it down with water (but don’t submerge it in an ice bath). Then, get the pet to a veterinarian, quickly, even if it seems to be doing better. The Greater Birmingham Humane Society suggests you consider "if it's too hot for young children and elderly, then it's too hot for animals to stay outside."
The other danger for pets is asphalt. The streets and sidewalks in Birmingham can get very hot. The Greater Birmingham Humane Society and you should always check the temperature of the sidewalk with the back of your hand before you let your dog walk on it. If it's too hot for you to touch, it is too hot for your pet.
If yours is an outdoor dog, supply access to shade and cool water.
Summertime ushers in a favorite Birmingham pastime – outdoor cooking. Despite the yummy smells and the tasty food they produce, barbecues cause nearly 9,000 home fires every year and July and August are peak grilling months.
Follows these tips to keep your family and your home safe during the summer grilling season:
- Keep the grill clean. The National Fire Protection Association cautions that dirty grills are the leading cause of grill fires.
- Place the grill at least 10 feet away from the house, other structures and landscape décor (such as hanging planters, pillows and patio umbrellas).
- Keep both a spray bottle of water and a fire extinguisher nearby.
- Never turn on the gas while the lid is closed.
- Never leave the grill unattended.
- Never use your grill indoors.
- Don’t allow children and pets to play near the grill.
Protecting yourself, your family and your pets during the long, lazy days of summer is easy if you’re prepared. Get additional tips online at healthychildren.org, aspca.org, Greater Birmingham Humane Society, and nsc.org.
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