Summertime is playtime, but doing so safely is important

Carson Worley, 5, plugs his nose while getting a spritz of sunscreen Wednesday, June 12, 2024 by babysitter Madison Duhon. The two were about to cool off at the Dixon Park District splash pad.

DIXON – Summertime brings with it many opportunities for outdoor fun, but it also brings the dangers of heat.

Temperatures are forecasted to reach the 90s over the course of the next week, National Weather Service meteorologist Zachary Yack said. The overnight temperatures likely won’t drop below the low 70s, he said.

Monday, June 17, is expected to be the warmest day, with highs between 94 and 96 degrees, Yack said.

If you’re going to do anything, overhydrate, and that should protect you from most things.”

—  Dr. John Luckey, CGH family medicine doctor

“Temperatures that warm, plus the humidity, it makes those heat indexes get up to the mid- and upper 90s,” he said.

It’s important to be proactive in protecting yourself and loved ones from the heat by drinking water, wearing cool clothing and spending time in the shade, said Dr. John Luckey, a family medicine doctor at the CGH Medical Center Main Clinic in Sterling. When trying to cool down, let yourself sweat and keep cool air flowing over you, he said.

“With adults and older adults, the reality is, once you’re already thirsty or feeling bad, you’ve already overdone it,” Luckey said. “You’ve missed your protection scenario.”

Children can’t always tell the adults caring for them when they’re too hot or overheated, so it’s important to watch them, he said. Luckey noted that kids don’t always sweat at the same rate as adults, so that shouldn’t be a guardian’s only indicator.

For kids younger than 6 months old, it’s important to use sun barriers such as umbrellas and protective SPF clothing, Luckey said. He said he doesn’t recommend a lot of sunscreen for children that young because they tend to eat it, and it can make them sick.

When using sunscreen, a broad-spectrum SPF of 30 or higher is the best bet, Luckey said.

“Just make sure you apply it every few hours,” he said. “A stronger SPF doesn’t mean it lasts longer.”

That’s especially true when in the water because sunscreen will wash off, Luckey said.

Swimming is a favorite summertime activity of many, but water safety is as important as heat safety.

“I always encourage parents to consider swim lessons [for kids] so they know how to swim or float if they happen to fall into the water,” Luckey said. “Anybody with a pool should have a fence and ladder so kids don’t fall into the water, as well as appropriate flotation devices.”

If someone seems as if they might be suffering from severe heat exhaustion or has abnormal vital signs, it’s time to go to the emergency room, Luckey said. Signs of heat stroke include low blood pressure, a high heart rate, passing out and confusion, he said.

“If they’re acting funny or not making sense or slurring speech and have a thready pulse, you should get them to the emergency room,” Luckey said.

Heat stroke is an emergency that involves heat exhaustion with end-stage organ damage, he said. It’s a condition that needs to be managed in an emergency room setting by hydration and aggressive cooling of the person, Luckey said.

If a person is in a relatively reasonable mental state and is able to cool down without going to the ER, someone still should stay nearby and watch them until they’ve recovered, he said. If a person is faint or disoriented, they aren’t going to make the best decisions, he said.

“Once you get to that heat-exhaustion stage, you need to stop what you’re doing and get somewhere cooler, get in the shade, drink a lot of water,” Luckey said.

Most sports drinks are good for hydration because they have electrolytes, he said. Water works well, but when you sweat a lot, your body loses a lot of salt, and electrolytes will replace that lost salt, Luckey said.

“If you’re going to do anything, overhydrate, and that should protect you from most things,” he said.

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Alexa Zoellner

Alexa Zoellner

Alexa Zoellner reports on Lee, Ogle and Whiteside counties for Shaw Media out of the Dixon office. Previously, she worked for the Record-Eagle in Traverse City, Michigan, and the Daily Jefferson County Union in Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin.