Summer Safety

Summer vacations are fast approaching, and beach trips are popular vacations for many Louisiana residents. While they can be great fun, there are health risks to consider. Fortunately, there are precautions everyone can take to make their summers safer.

Too Much Sun
The Skin Cancer Foundation states that one in five Americans will develop skin cancer in the course of a lifetime. Nearly 50 percent of Americans who live to age 65 will have skin cancer at least once in their lives. But there are steps you can take to protect yourself while having fun in the sun.

It’s important to realize that one coat of sunscreen isn’t enough for a full day outdoors. The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends you reapply sunscreen every two hours or immediately after swimming or excessive sweating. The first coat of sunblock should be applied 30 minutes before venturing outside. When choosing a sunscreen, the American Academy of Dermatology advises picking one that protects against ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) rays, is water-resistant and has a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or higher.

The Mayo Clinic recommends wearing broad-brimmed hats and UV-protective clothing.  Several brands, including Coolibar and REI, provide outdoor wear with a high UV-protection factor.

Lastly, the sun’s rays are strongest between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. If you’re on a weekend beach trip, consider hitting the sand earlier in the morning and for sunset in the evening, using the midday hours for indoor lunch and a siesta.

The Drowning Response
Every summer, a trip to the beach ends in tragedy when an unlucky person drowns. There are warning signs people can look out for in their fellow swimmers, but they don’t match the stereotypical images promoted by TV and film of a struggling person waving and calling out for help.  

An article in the Coast Guard’s On Scene Magazine by Mario Vittone and Dr. Francesco Pia describes the actual characteristics of the instinctive drowning response. In most cases, drowning people are unable to call for help because they can’t breathe. A drowner’s mouth will alternately sink below and rise above the water’s surface. Their mouths will not remain above water long enough to breathe or speak.

On a similar note, drowning people can’t wave for help. In order to leverage their bodies in a way where they can breathe, they will press down on the water’s surface. Voluntary movements like waving, moving towards a lifeguard, or reaching for rescue equipment are impossible.

During the struggle, a drowning person will remain upright in the water without the evidence of a supporting kick. Without rescue, the swimmer will remain on the water’s surface for 20-60 seconds until submersion. A person waving or calling or help may still be in severe distress and need assistance. It just means he/she hasn’t started drowning yet.


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