It’s time to kick back, relax and enjoy another memorable Memorial Day. You’ve earned it!
The best part is, having fun in the sun doesn’t have to compromise your health.
In this article, we discuss the does-and-don’ts of summer safety, including sun safety, water safety, and the healthiest, mouth-watering barbeque foods.
Let’s dive in!
Why Sun Safety Is So Important
Sunshine is an important part of a healthy life, but too much can wreak havoc on your health.
This Memorial Day, sun exposure is all about balance.
Nothing puts a smile on your face like a little sunshine! That’s because sunshine increases vitamin D supports mental health and builds stronger bones.
Too much sun, on the other hand, can cause skin damage, eye damage, and even skin cancer.
Although vitamin D from the sun boosts immunity, too much can actually suppress immunity.
Believe it or not, even people in their early twenties can develop skin cancer.
More often than not, this usually means they got sunburned a few too many times when they were kids.
When it comes down to it, summer safety starts with sun safety!
How Do Sunburns Happen?
The sun radiates invisible ultraviolet (UV) rays that can ultimately damage the skin.
UVA rays, for example, cause skin wrinkling and increase the risk of melanoma cancer. (1)
UVB rays are just as bad. They can lead to cataracts (clouding of the eyes), weaken immunity, and contribute to skin cancer.
UV rays damage the skin by reacting with a chemical in the skin called melanin.
Ultimately, melanin’s job is to protect you from UV rays.
The darker your skin color, the more melanin it contains and the easier it is for the skin to protect itself.
However, even if you have naturally dark skin you can still get a sunburn.
Tanning happens when the skin produces melanin to protect you from the sun.
Technically, a tan is a sign of skin damage, although it’s nowhere near as bad as a painful sunburn.
The sun’s rays are the strongest during summer, at high altitudes, and in regions near the equator.
In these areas, the sun’s rays beat more directly because there’s less ozone to protect it.
Believe it or not, even heavy cloud cover doesn’t block all the sun’s rays, so it’s always best to play it safe and keep your skin protected.
Summer Safety Tips for the Sun
No matter how dark your skin is or which part of the world you’re in, follow these summer safety tips for the sun:
1. Wear Sunscreen
This Memorial Day, use sunscreen with a rating of SPF 30 or higher.
Make sure it’s labeled “broad-spectrum” so that you know it protects against both UVA and UVB rays.
Water-resistant and sweat-resistant sunscreen are best, especially if you plan to go swimming.
Always apply a generous amount and reapply often.
2. Cover Up with Light Clothing and Use Sun Umbrellas
Whenever you’re not in the water, wear clothes that cover up as much skin as possible.
Obviously, on a scorching hot day, you won’t want to wear too many clothes.
However, a light long-sleeve shirt offers some of the best sun protection your arms can have.
This is especially important for babies and young children because they have thinner skin and are more vulnerable to sunburns.
For babies 6 months or younger, try to keep them in the shade as much as possible.
Hats are also lifesavers for children and adults.
If you’re at the park or the beach, bring along a big umbrella or collapsible canopy so you always have a safe, shady spot to escape to.
3. Wear Sunglasses
UVB rays can damage the eyes over time.
In fact, just one day of intense sunlight is enough to burn the cornea: the clear outer membrane of the eye.
Luckily, sunglasses with UV protection are all it takes to keep your precious eyeballs safe and sound.
4. Make Sure Your Medications are Safe for the Sun
Some prescriptions, like antibiotics and acne medicines, make the skin more sensitive to sunlight.
In fact, even some over-the-counter drugs can have similar effects.
Ask your doctor or pharmacist if your medications have any sun-related side effects.
Most sun damage due to medications happens on cloudy, overcast days when you least expect it, so play it safe and cover-up!
5. Stay Out of the Sun from 10 am to 4 pm
During the middle of the day, the sun’s rays are at their strongest.
Of course, Memorial Day fun isn’t going to stop for the sun, but it’s certainly something to keep in mind.
At the very least, make sure to reapply sunscreen regularly and take breaks in the shade.
What Should You Do If You Get a Sunburn?
You tried your hardest to protect yourself from the sun, but you still got a sunburn.
Symptoms tend to set in a few hours after the initial sun exposure.
One of the earliest signs is that your skin might start to get chills.
On a hot Memorial Day, the chills are the last thing you should feel, that is unless something is wrong.
As more time passes, your skin may start to feel sore, itch and peel.
Severe sunburns can be so painful that it even hurts when clothes touch them.
Here’s what you can do to feel more comfortable and help your sunburn heal:
Apply aloe the next day to soothe the skin and ease soreness (2)
Take anti-inflammatory supplements, like curcumin extract, to reduce inflammation and redness
Take a cool bath or gently apply cool, wet towels to the skin
As the skin starts to itch and peel over the next few days, apply moisturizing cream
If the sunburn causes blisters to develop, ask your doctor if they recommend any medications to prevent infection.
When Tragedy Strikes: Summer Drowning Statistics
When temperatures are blazing, nothing hits the spot like a dip in the pool, lake, or ocean.
However, as fun as the water can be, it can be equally dangerous.
Believe it or not, drowning is the leading cause of injury-related death in children.
The highest-risk age groups are children under four and teens. That’s because toddlers lack swimming skills and teens can be reckless.
Even if they survive a near-drowning, it can still cause severe brain damage. (3)
Aside from death, that’s every parent’s worst nightmare!
Summer safety isn’t complete without these important water safety tips:
Summer Safety Tips for the Water
No matter your age or swimming experience, here’s how to keep you and your family safe in the water:
1. Never Swim Alone
The water is an unpredictable place, especially for novice swimmers.
Crowded pools and beaches make it easy to lose track of your child and beginner swimmers can easily get lost in the mix.
At the same time, lakes and oceans present unique dangers…
Ocean beaches have powerful rip tides that can sweep away swimmers in the blink of an eye. In fact, even strong swimmers can get caught by surprise.
For children, swimming under adult supervision is always a must. That way if they suddenly become tired help is always close by.
2. Empty Kiddie Pools After Each Use
Kiddie pools are perfect for little ones at backyard barbeques on Memorial Day.
At first glance, they are much safer than larger bodies of water, but shallow water drownings happen all the time.
Watch your kids closely and empty the pool when they’re done. This will prevent them from falling in while your back is turned.
3. Teach Safe Ways to Enter the Water
Neck injuries can occur when kids dive headfirst into shallow water.
Cannonballs and jackknives, on the other hand, are much safer.
On a similar note, tell your children to double-check that the coast is clear so they don’t accidentally jump on other swimmers.
Until they’re a strong swimmer, ask them to use the pool steps or a ladder instead.
4. Life Vests and Floaties
Inexperienced swimmers can still have a ton of fun while wearing a life vest in open water.
Coast Guard-approved life vests are a necessity when boating, but water wings, floaties, and kickboards are great for the beach.
Ultimately, it all depends on the child’s swimming skills and the level of adult supervision.
If you feel like you might be distracted while cooking or chatting with friends, have them use a flotation device just to be safe.
5. No Breath-Holding Games Allowed
Inexperienced swimmers can run out of breath suddenly and easily.
The risk of running out of air only gets worse if they’ve been playing breath-holding games.
When they finally pop up for air in deep water, they run the risk of panicking, hyperventilating, and passing out.
Competing to see who can swim the farthest underwater is equally risky.
6. Be Careful Not to Swallow Water
Whether it’s in the pool, lake, or ocean, the water is not safe to drink.
All sorts of contaminants, including sewage runoff, are lurking in lakes and oceans.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, just one mouthful of germ-contaminated water is enough to make you sick for weeks. (4)
Pools, on the other hand, are full of toxic chlorine.
Chlorine is relatively safe for the skin, but it’s harmful when swallowed.
Tell your kids to take a break if they swallow water and to let you know when it happens.
7. Don’t Swim Sick
People are more vulnerable to germs in the water if they’re already sick.
At the same time, kids who have diarrhea should not be allowed in pools.
Just to be safe, make sure to shower off thoroughly when you get out of the water.
You never know what’s hiding in the water!
8. Avoid Swimming Near Pool Drains
Pool drains can suck in long hair if you swim too close to them.
Likewise, bathing suits can get caught in the drain and lead to injury or drowning.
It’s yet another reason why close supervision is always important for young swimmers.
Avoid these Unhealthy Foods
Dirty swimming water isn’t the only thing that you should avoid swallowing this Memorial Day!
As delicious as some classic barbeque foods are, many of them aren’t so great for your health.
Here are some of the worst barbeque foods to avoid:
Mac and cheese
Creamy, mayonnaise-based dips
Processed snack foods
These foods are full of inflammatory preservatives, nitrates, dairy, and trans fats.
In addition to avoiding certain foods, the grill itself has hidden nutritional dangers.
Unfortunately, that delicious smokey taste that everyone loves contains cancer-causing compounds called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and heterocyclic amines (HCAs). (5)
PAHs form when the fat from meats drips on the hot grill or coals.
Similarly, HCAs form when red meat, fish, and poultry are cooked at high heat.
Ultimately, these compounds end up in the food as the smoke and flames rise.
Luckily, there are a few smart grilling tips you can use to keep HCAs and PAHs to a minimum.
We’ll cover those next…
Healthy Grilling Tips and Nutrition Foods for Your Summer Barbeque
In general, grilled foods are healthier than fried foods because they contain less trans fats.
However, as you just learned they contain dangerous compounds.
Let’s take a closer look at healthy foods and summer safety grilling tips for Memorial Day:
1. Flip It, Flip It Real Good!
Flipping food frequently can help prevent HCAs and PAHs from forming on hamburger patties, meats, and veggies.
At the same time, do your best not to pierce the meat when you flip it.
This way you’ll prevent juices from dripping on the coals and forming dangerous compounds.
2. Shorten Grilling Time
Grill smaller portions of meat rather than big batches.
Ultimately, the extra space on the grill cooks the meat faster and limits exposure to HCAs and PAHs.
Another trick is to precook meat, fish, and poultry in the oven and then finish it off on the grill.
You’ll still get that great grilled taste but without all the extra toxins.
3. Use Lean Meats
Lean cuts of meat drip less fat on the grill and cut down on HCAs and PAHs.
If you have fattier cuts of meat, start by trimming off the fat before grilling.
On a similar note, skinless chicken drips less fat than chicken with skin.
4. Go Bun-free
Classic hamburger buns contain gluten: an inflammatory compound that’s linked to digestive disorders. (6)
In fact, even people who aren’t allergic to gluten may still react poorly without noticing any obvious symptoms.
Plus, going bun-free is great for weight management because it cuts down on carbs.
Eat your burger with a lettuce wrap instead.
This is a great way to support long-term health.
5. Grilled Vegetables
Vegetables taste delicious on the grill!
Plus, you could always use more veggies in your diet.
Vegetables contain dense fiber that’s great for gut health.
Ultimately, plant fiber supports healthy gut bacteria, supports digestion, and reduces food cravings. (7)
At the same time, they contain essential vitamins and minerals.
Eating more vegetables can reduce the risk of several disorders, including:
Several types of cancer
Even better, veggies don’t drip fat onto the grill, so you’ll be avoiding those pesky PAHs and HCAs!
Some of the tastiest vegetables to grill are:
6. Vinegar-Based Coleslaw
The coleslaw that’s made with mayonnaise contains processed inflammatory fats.
Instead of creamy, oil-based coleslaw, make it with vinegar.
Vinegar-based coleslaw tastes delicious and doesn’t contain all those nasty oils.
It’ll be an instant hit at your next Memorial Day get-together!
7. Marinate Like You Mean It
Marinate your meats and vegetables for some mouth-watering flavor.
Healthy marinade ingredients include:
Lemon and lime juice
Not only do marinades taste amazing, they also help reduce the amount of fat that drips on the grill and forms HCAs.
Following these healthy marinating tips for best results:
Refrigerate any foods that are marinating for longer than 30 minutes to prevent bacteria growth
Meats should marinate for at least 1-2 hours
Vegetables only need to marinate for about an hour
If you’re using a bottled marinade, make sure that it contains olive oil instead of inflammatory canola oil
Do not baste your food during grilling to reduce fats and juices from dripping onto the grill
8. Skewer It Up
Nothing’s more convenient than eating your meat and veggies on a stick!
That way you can easily stand, walk and chat while you eat.
Alternate small chunks of meat with veggies like onion, bell pepper, mushrooms, and zucchini.
Best of all, the smaller pieces of meat cook faster so that you can limit grilling time and cut down on HCAs and PAHs.
9. Healthy, Refreshing Drinks
Soda is almost synonymous with summer gatherings, but they’re also terrible for your health.
Sugar promotes inflammation throughout the body and is a huge risk factor for diabetes and other serious conditions.
Plus, sugar promotes bad gut bacteria and wreaks havoc on digestion.
Instead of soda, make your own healthy spritzers with lemon or lime juice, a hint of coconut water, and sugar-free carbonated water.
You can also try an anti-inflammatory smoothie made of papaya, mixed berries, and cucumber.
With the right choices, you can make this Memorial Day the healthiest, safest day of the year!
If you have any more questions about summer safety, feel free to contact us and Complete Care Health Centers.
We’re more than happy to answer any questions you may have.