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Doctor's Orders: Enjoy Summer, Safely
Summer is here! If that actually means we will have sunny, warm weather or not, we’ll see. Hopefully, it will mean spending lots of time outdoors, enjoying all that this beautiful state has to offer. Whether you love hiking, fishing, sailing or just spending more time working in the yard, get outside and enjoy!
As a fellow Rhode Islander, I’ll also be out there. But as an emergency physician and medical toxicologist, I want to call your attention to being safe all summer long!
Here are some basic topics to keep an eye on throughout the summer:
- Sun Safety. Protect yourself and your children from sunburn. Apply sunscreen to exposed areas of skin before you leave the house and reapply frequently. This can make the difference between a great adventure and suffering later – not to mention the increased risk of skin cancer.
- Plants and Berries. Teach your children never to taste wild plants or berries without your knowledgeable supervision. Just because something is attractive and might look appetizing, doesn’t mean it won’t make you ill.
- Poison Plants. Learn what poison ivy, poison sumac, and poison oak look like and keep everyone away from them. Urushiol is the plants' toxic oil that can cause a terribly itchy rash. It can be transferred to you not only from the plant, but also from your pet’s fur or from clothing that has rubbed against the leaves.
- Mushrooms. Sorry grandma, but the old sayings in how to tell poisonous mushrooms from safe mushrooms do not work. Never eat wild mushrooms! If you’re not a mushroom expert, look and enjoy, but don’t eat them.
- Hydrate. Drink plenty of fluids! People sweat more in the summer and dehydration is possible. If you’re doing activities in the heat, you’re probably sweating more than you realize. For most people, the best rehydration solution is just plain water!
- Stings. Bee and wasp stings happen when people are buzzing about. If you have an allergy to bee stings, make sure to take your epi-pen with you whenever you’re enjoying the great outdoors!
Following these tips will help you and your family enjoy summer safely.
Jason Hack, MD, FACEP, FACMT
Dr. Jason Hack is an emergency medicine physician at Rhode Island Hospital and The Miriam Hospital, and director of the division of medical toxicology. He is also the director of the program in medical toxicology education at Brown University.