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News | July 15, 2021

Old-School Summer Safety Risks: Sun, Water, Insects and Alcohol

Even as concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic begin to fade, the traditional, old-school summer safety issues - like those involving sun, water, insects and alcohol - continue to pose real risks for many military families.

"The pre-pandemic summer-related threats haven't disappeared," Air Force Lt. Col. (Dr.) Christine Smetana, a preventive medicine resident at Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences said during the most recent Military Health System-Military OneSource Town Hall. You can see the full Town Hall on summer safety.

Smetana encouraged people to get outside as much as possible, partly because it is a great way to combat the risk of COVID-19 and its variants that continue to spread across the United States and overseas.

But, she added, being outside during the summer months doesn't come without necessary precautions.

"The main health risks in the summer, generally, are still water-related injuries, sun exposure, insect bites and risky behavior such as drinking and driving," she said.

"Before engaging in any activity, a person really needs to think about the potential risks and how to best decrease or mitigate those risks," Smetana said.

Sun

Hot or uncomfortable as it may be, Smetana said that one of the best ways to protect yourself against the sun – both the short-term risk of severe sunburn and the long-term risk of skin cancer -- is to keep your skin covered, either with sunscreen or clothes.

"The tops of your feet, your hands, your neck, your ears and nose are all very important parts of your body to remember to put sunscreen on - wearing hats, long sleeves or long pants can help protect those areas because clothing offers protection as well," she said.

Insects

Although people often think of bugs simply as a nuisance, Smetana said certain bugs have the potential to carry diseases that could become serious.

"It's important, especially if you're out in wooded or overgrown areas, to wear long-sleeve shirts, long pants to protect yourself against bug bites," she said.

"Using an insect spray with DEET (diethyltoluamide) is also very useful."

Checking for ticks after being in the woods is also important to avoid bringing them back into your house, she said.

Water

Water safety is also a primary concern in the summer months, especially for young children.

"Water is one of the first things that comes to mind when we think of summer. Be cognizant that there is a risk when you're around water," Smetana said. "Ideally, everyone in the family should learn to swim."

If that isn't possible, or perhaps your children are too young or in the process of learning, they "should use a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket when they're in situations near water or when they're going to be going into the water," she said.

Alcohol

With summer parties and large outdoor gatherings, she said the potential to drink alcohol while participating in these activities inevitably increases. Smetana encouraged people to drink water, not alcohol.

"Drinking water is perfectly fine. Please drink lots of water, but refrain from drinking alcohol when you are going to be swimming or boating," she said.

Keeping safe this summer is vital to ensure service members are able to perform effectively, efficiently, and safely on and off duty.

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