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As Memorial Day Weekend Approaches, Here’s How to be Safe Having Fun in the Sun

May 22, 2023

With Memorial Day weekend arriving later this week, families across Southern California will be going swimming, grilling, hiking, camping, road tripping or boating as they celebrate the unofficial start of summer.

Although enjoying some fun in the sun in the aftermath of COVID fatigue and an exceptionally wet and gloomy rainy season will be done by many people, it’s important to keep safety on top of your mind as you venture out this coming long weekend, says Dr. Kimberly Petrick, a family medicine physician with Kaiser Permanente Southern California.

“If you’re going to spend a lot of time in the sun, remember to stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water, and please wear that sunscreen of SPF 30 or higher to prevent damage to your skin. This is important for everyone, including people of color,” she said.

“If you’re going to be around water, consider water resistant sunscreen. Either way, still reapply sunscreen throughout the day because sunscreen does wear off. If you’re going to be in the sun for more than two hours, no matter what the activities are, pack plenty of water and bring sunscreen with you for some touch-ups.”

One of the most important things when spending a lot of time outdoors is to maintain hydration while you’re out in the sun, Dr. Petrick stressed. Additionally, the risk of Heat Stress can come on unexpectedly, and if not realized, it can turn in to Heat Stroke pretty quickly.

“Pay attention to your body,” advises Dr. Petrick, who practices at Kaiser Permanente Santa Monica. “If you experience headaches, lightheadedness, nausea, confusion, irritability or upset stomach, try to cool off, get out of the sun, and drink more water. And if you’re not improving, please seek medical attention.”

Dr. Petrick also recommended the following:

  • Bring all of the necessities for a day in the sun – plenty of water, sunscreen, a hat and maybe even hand-held fan if it’s hot outside. 
  • If you’re drinking alcohol, although it may feel like you’re hydrating, it actually does the opposite. As such, drink in moderation and make sure you’re balancing it with plenty of water intake, too. A good rule-of-thumb is to drink no more than one alcoholic beverage per hour. Never drive a vehicle or a boat while you’ve been drinking.
  • Take breaks in a cool, shady place instead of spending all of your time in the sun.
  • Avoid heavy work-outs or sports during the hottest part of the day, typically between 
    Noon and 4 p.m.

If you’re going swimming, remember the following, Dr. Petrick said:

  • Keep an eye on your kids and avoid distractions like texting, reading or socializing.
  • If you’re on a beach or in a pool, make sure there’s a lifeguard on-duty or designate someone to keep an eye out, even if you’re out boating.
  • If you or your children aren’t the best swimmers, there’s no shame in that. Wear those life vests or floaties (for the kids) proudly.
  • Avoid drinking while swimming. Cramps, impaired judgment, disorientation and drowning are unfortunate but true risks.

If you love hiking, it’s advisable to take some precautions for your safety, Dr. Petrick notes. They include:

  • Consider avoiding hiking during the hottest time of the day (noon to 4 p.m.). Instead, get an early start.
  • Wear light colors that reflect the sun’s rays rather than absorb them by dark colored clothes.
  • Wear loose, lightweight breathable clothing – like nylon or polyester – to help regulate body temperatures.
  • Wear sturdy shoes; avoid going barefoot or wearing flip flops.
  • Wearing hats or bandanas that can be dunked in water to cool your head and neck are also great accessories to the hiking wardrobe.

Remember that snakes do exist on some hiking trails. Rattle Snakes are the ones to keep your eye out for, Dr. Petrick said. They generally want to avoid you as much as you probably want to avoid them. However, to avoid them, consider the following:

  • Stick to open trails with good visibility. If you hear the rattle, don’t panic, just try to stay clear.
  • In the rare event that there’s a bite, do your best to stay calm but act quickly. Don’t place a tourniquet or pressure. Instead, remove anything that may constrict swelling such as your shoes or a watch depending upon where the bite is, and get to the hospital or call 911 as quickly as possible.

Dr. Petrick recommended carrying a little backpack for snacks, to hold your cellphone in case of an emergency, and of course, to keep water for that hydration, as well as sunscreen. 

“Taking simple precautions will help ensure that you can enjoy Memorial Day weekend without putting your health at risk,” Dr. Petrick said. “That way, you’ll have fun, be safe, and avoid getting sick or hurt, which would spoil an otherwise perfect weekend for fun under the sun!”