Sights on summer, thoughts on safety

Summer has officially arrived. And with the warmer weather comes invitations to backyard swim parties and family barbeques, and opportunities to partake in sporty outings and fireworks displays.

But before heading outdoors, make sure you’re armed with the essentials for spending time in the sun, cooling off and celebrating America’s birth.

For starters, the right pair of sunglasses, a hat and a good sunscreen can go a long way. And don’t forget to stay informed when it comes to both fireworks and pool safety.

It’s the season to have fun, but there’s always time to implement the proper safety practices.

Soak up the SPF 30

According to Dr. Carol Cola, who works in the department of surgery at Pottstown Memorial Medical Center, about 90 percent of skin cancers occur on the head, neck, ears, lips or hands — areas most often exposed to the sun.

In an article Cola recently wrote about sun safety that was released by the medical center, she pointed out that “a sun burn can happen anywhere, not just at the park or the pool. You are exposed to sun while driving, through a glass window in your home, or reflected off another surface such as concrete, sand or snow.

“The good news: It’s never too late to begin protecting your skin. Recent studies by the Skin Cancer Foundation state that the average individual has received only 23 percent of your lifetime sun exposure by age 18 — not 80 percent as formerly thought — so there’s always a health benefit to be gained by beginning new habits, at any time in life.”

Cola wrote that using a sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30 is recommended. “The number refers to the product’s ability to protect the skin, i.e., the amount of time it takes to burn unprotected skin versus sunscreen-protected skin. Be sure to choose a sunscreen with both UVA and UVB protection, also called a ‘broad spectrum’ sunscreen.

“Protect your skin all day,” Cola wrote, “but especially between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., the prime time for sun burns. Remember that it’s still possible to get a sun burn on cloudy days, too. Apply plenty of sunscreen (about an ounce, which is the equivalent of a shot glass of lotion), 20 to 30 minutes before going outdoors, and reapply frequently (about every two hours) particularly after exercise or water activities.”

Cola wrote that keeping an eye on freckles, moles and other spots on your skin, and showing any changes to your doctor or dermatologist, is a good idea. “Warning signs to look for include a mole, birthmark or brown spot that over time changes color or texture, increases in size or thickness, has irregular outlines, or is bigger than 6 millimeters or a quarter-inch (the size of a pencil eraser). Also, any spot or sore that itches, hurts, crusts, scabs or bleeds, or an open sore that does not heal, should be brought to the attention of your doctor.”

Concerned about a suspicious spot on your skin? Visit the American Academy of Dermatology ( and National Cancer Institute ( websites to compare the various types of melanomas and their visual characteristics, and then contact your doctor for a skin cancer screening. If found and treated early, melanoma has a high cure rate, about 99 percent, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation.

Shade your eyes

According to a 2011 national survey conducted by N3L Optics to better understand behaviors and beliefs of sunglass purchasers, only 66 percent of adults wear sunglasses consistently when they are outdoors, and only half of those between ages 18 to 24 do so.

Kendra Reichenau, senior vice president of N3L Optics, a sunglass store for the athlete and outdoor enthusiast, was quoted in a press released as saying, “Your eyes are a critical component of your well-being and need to be protected with the same level of vigilance as your skin.”

Eighty percent of the 623 respondents, ages 18 to 54, reported worrying about their eye health, but nearly one in four did not know that sun exposure can cause eye damage, according to the press release.

The sun’s harmful UV radiation can lead to cataracts, macular degeneration and some cancers, nearly all of which are preventable with proper use of sunglasses. According to the American Optometric Association, UV radiation is a risk, even on overcast days.

“Many people who are active choose to not wear sunglasses because they think it inhibits their ability to perform at their highest level,” Reichenau said. “That isn’t true if you have the right sunglasses for your sport.”

Helpful sunglass tips from N3L:

Polarized lenses are helpful for activities that require glare reduction, like fishing, sailing, kayaking and sand volleyball.

While no lens is shatterproof or unbreakable, glasses or goggles with polycarbonate lenses are impact resistant, shatter resistant and filter out 100 percent of UV light.

Different lens colors work best for different sports, for example, golfers can benefit from lenses with amber, brown or rose tint, which enhance depth perception and help with following the ball in low or medium light conditions.

Consider the safety features you need for your activity, as many sports sunglasses are designed to address specific safety concerns like protecting during impact, shielding from flying debris and improving visibility.

If sunglasses do not fit properly, they can’t protect properly. Many sunglasses have special features that allow them to stay in place during activities such as running, cycling and climbing.

Wrap around lenses sometimes work best because they block light coming in from the sides. In addition, larger lenses may be more effective, because they cover more of the eye.

Leave fireworks to professionals

According to The Pennsylvania Academy of Ophthalmology (PAO), each Fourth of July, thousands of people are injured from using consumer fireworks.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission reported that more than 9,000 fireworks-related injuries happen each year. Of these, nearly half are head-related injuries and nearly 30 percent are injuries to the eyes. One-fourth of fireworks eye injuries result in permanent vision loss or blindness.

“Too many Fourth of July celebrations are ruined because a child has to be rushed to the emergency room after a fireworks accident,” said Dr. Kenneth Cheng, pediatric ophthalmologist and president of the Harrisburg-based PAO, in a press release. “Potentially blinding injuries can be avoided if families attend a professional public fireworks display instead of putting on a home fireworks show.”

According to the PAO, children are the most common victims of firework accidents, with those 15 years old or younger accounting for half of all fireworks eye injuries in the United States. For children under the age of five, seemingly innocent sparklers account for one-third of all fireworks injuries. Sparklers can burn at nearly 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit (hot enough to cause a third-degree burn), and the ashes fly in all directions increasing the chances of injury.

“Among the most serious injuries are direct trauma to the eye from bottle rockets,” according to Dr. Cheng. “The rockets fly erratically, often injuring bystanders. Injuries from bottle rockets can include eye lid lacerations, corneal abrasions, hyphema or bleeding into the eye, traumatic cataract, retinal detachment, optic nerve damage, and rupture of the eyeball. These injuries frequently require surgery and may lead to complete blindness.”

For a safe and healthy Independence Day celebration, the PAO urges observance of the following tips:

Never let children play with fireworks of any type.

View fireworks from a safe distance, at least 500 feet away, or up to a quarter of a mile for best viewing.

Respect safety barriers set up to allow pyrotechnicians to do their jobs safely.

Leave the lighting of fireworks to trained professionals.

Follow directives given by event ushers or public safety personnel.

If you find unexploded fireworks remains, do not touch them. Immediately contact your local fire or police departments.

If you get an eye injury from fireworks, seek medical help immediately.

Consumers can submit questions about eye health to an ophthalmologist at . Find an eye doctor in your area by visiting .

Stay afloat

According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) website, so far in June there have been 37 drownings and 38 near-drowning incidents reported by the media across America.

“Oftentimes, pool safety is in the back of most people’s minds, but it should really be in the forefront of their thoughts when they use pools, especially their own,” American Leak Detection CEO and President Bill Palmer said in a press release from the company. “Something as simple as knowing where the pool water pump is so that you can quickly turn it off in the event of an emergency can make a world of a difference.”

Palmer said homeowners should take the following precautionary steps before opening their pools for members of their households and guests:

Check and replace necessary pool parts

Replace old flat drain covers and never use a pool or spa with a missing or broken drain cover. Install anti-vortex drain covers to minimize the risk of body and hair entrapment in the suction inlets, and consider installing a Safety Vacuum Release System that will automatically shut off a pump if a blockage is detected.

Make sure it’s clean, not green. If your pool water is green that likely means the water could contain molds, fungus, larvae and other contaminants that could cause those who use the pool to become sick.

Be cognizant of recalls and equipment reviews.

Check sites such as CPSC and Consumer Reports regularly for articles on recalls and reviews to ensure that your pool’s parts are all in tip top shape.

Call in the professionals. Have a professional specialist regularly inspect your pool or spa. Ask where the electrical cut-off switch is for the pool or spa pump. This area should be marked clearly so that, in an emergency, the water pump can be turned off immediately. In addition, loose or falling tiles and pool deck cracks — signs that the surrounding ground is being compromised by water and that there is a leak in the pool system — can cause those using the pool to slip and fall.

“Residents should make good judgments before opening their pool … (like) putting up a wall or fence at least four feet high around the pool; not allowing unsupervised children in the pool; being sure that at least one person in the household knows CPR; not using air-filled swimming aids as a substitute for approved life vests; and keeping … flotation devices and a telephone by the pool in the event of an emergency,” Palmer said.

~The Times Herald


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