Stay safe, healthy this summer

Stay safe, healthy this summer

If there is water around, whether a swimming pool or the sea, we cannot get even briefly distracted, since all it takes to drown is three minutes face down in the water. Photo:

If there is water around, whether a swimming pool or the sea, we cannot get even briefly distracted, since all it takes to drown is three minutes face down in the water. Photo:

Many people look forward to summer for holidays, longer days, travelling and spending time outside. For children summer means time off, no homework, new crafts and hobbies and lots of friends to play with.

For adults, it means more relaxation from helping children with studies and vacation leave. During this week of Santa Marija early morning traffic also takes a break, as many people are on their shutdown. 

For some it may also mean a long-planned holiday to somewhere in Europe or some more exotic destinations or even a short stay in the lovely island of Gozo. Whatever it is, the fact that one gets out of their usual routine is enough to take a break and forget all about what they usually do.

Does anyone remember their childhood days in summer? For many, we remember the happy times: eating a freshly baked Maltese loaf on the beach, building sandcastles, chasing flickering fireflies at night and playing softball with friends.

But there are other memories we may wish we could forget.  Like the time we went to the beach for a whole day and ended up with a bright red sunburn, blistered cheeks and chest, and could not move for two days. Remember the day you stepped on a sea urchin and the spines penetrated your foot? Hopefully, few experienced this.

In summer children have lots of free time on their hands and it is great to have friends over at your home. However, we have to be careful when children stay with friends or relatives as their home or garden might not be as child-friendly as your home. Children like to explore new surroundings, so make sure they don’t go far on their own. Always keep medicines and cleaning products out of sight and out of reach.

Water fascinates young children and swimming is fun and great exercise, but any one of us can drown. So, if there is water around, whether a swimming pool or the sea, we cannot get even briefly distracted, since all it takes to drown is three minutes face down in the water. Watch out for your children and make sure they know how to swim properly.

Although once considered just a nuisance, insect bites can lead to serious medical problems, as mosquitoes can act as vectors to diseases. Protect yourself by applying good insect repellents. Also, try other things to avoid biting insects, such as dressing your children in thin, loose-fitting, long-sleeved clothing that doesn’t include bright colours, encouraging them to wear socks and shoes instead of sandals, avoiding scented soaps and other things that might attract mosquitoes and other bugs and controlling mosquitoes and other insects in the area where your children play. Avoid standing or still water, where mosquitoes breed.

It is more common to see children with an ear ache in summer. Children with swimmer’s ear, called otitis externa, have an inflammation in their external ear canal. It is usually caused by water irritating the skin inside the ear, which then becomes infected with a bacteria, or more rarely, a fungus. Protect your ears, especially when swimming.

Insect bites can lead to serious medical problems

Children are in a dynamic state of growth and are therefore more susceptible to environmental threats than adults. Many vital functions, such as the immune system, are not fully developed at birth and unsafe environments may interfere with their normal development. But most environmental hazards are preventable: reducing exposure is the most effective way of protecting children’s health.

Always keep infants aged under 12 months in the shade and make sure you protect your children and yourself:

▪ Cover up with protective clothing, a hat and sunglasses.

▪ Apply broad-spectrum sunscreen.

▪ Limit their time in the sun between 11am and 4pm, and especially in the midday sun.

▪ Seek shade.

During heat illness, the body’s cooling system shuts down. Body temperature goes up, which inhibits the ability to sweat. Mild symptoms of heat exhaustion include thirst, fatigue and cramps in the legs or abdomen. Left untreated, heat exhaustion can progress to heat stroke.

Protect yourself by staying in cooled places. Reduce strenuous activities or do them during early mornings and evenings when it’s cooler. If you’re outside for long stretches of time, carry a water bottle, drink fluids regularly and don’t push your limits.

People who play sports should wear light, loose-fitting clothes and drink water or sports drinks before, during and after activity. If you see someone experiencing heat illness, have the person lie down in a cool place and elevate the legs. Use water, wet towels and fanning to help cool the person down until emergency help arrives.

Summer also brings with it different activities, including barbecues shared with family and friends. It is important to follow food safety guidelines to prevent harmful bacteria from multiplying and causing foodborne illness.

Microbes can be present in every kind of food you can think of, even Brussels sprouts. Many microbes grow at any temperature above freezing and stay alive until that temperature hits 75°C. Every second you give it between these two temperatures, it is multiplying and causing disease in your food. So, until it goes to your mouth or on the grill, it needs to be kept cool. The second you are done serving it up, it goes back in the refrigerator or cooler. The basic rules are: clean, cook, chill, separate. 

Travelling to different climates and environments abroad can expose you to disease and health risks. You should be aware of the dangers and how to stay healthy.

Diseases that aren’t present in Malta, such as yellow fever, malaria, rabies and dengue fever, are common in some areas of the world. Visit your GP or contact the Immunisation Centre in Floriana as soon as possible to check if you need any vaccinations or other preventive measures.

Summer, along with the scorching heat, also brings sensational seasonal fruits, such as melon, watermelon, peaches and grapes. These fruits not only satisfy our taste buds but are also great as a part of a healthy diet.

Enjoy the rest of summer and stay healthy.

Dr Charmaine Gauci is Superintendent of Public Health.

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