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Summer Safety

Summer is usually a time for fun and outdoor activities - especially for students. However, many health risks become more pronounced during the hot months of the year. Standard activities like being in the sun, grilling and fireworks can be dangerous if precautions are not taken. Read the information on this page to learn how you can protect yourself from burns and heat during the warmest months of the year.

Sun Protection

Most of us enjoy a wide variety of outdoor activities such as swimming, boating and biking, but "fun in the sun" can also be dangerous. The sun's ultraviolet (UV) rays are the culprits. Over time, these harmful rays of the sun can damage the skin causing loss of elasticity, accelerated wrinkling and lesions. They can also increase the risk of skin cancer. Fortunately, protecting the skin from the sun is easy.

How does the sun damage the skin?

Sunlight is made up of different wavelengths of UV rays. Ultraviolet B (UVB) radiation is the short-wave type that damages the surface of the skin by causing a sunburn or suntan. Ultraviolet A (UVA) rays are the long-wave type. They penetrate more deeply than UVB rays, damaging the skin's connective tissues and causing decreased elasticity and accelerated wrinkling of the skin. The total amount of UV exposure at any given time is influenced by a number of factors such as duration of exposure, season, time of day, and altitude. It doesn't have to be sunny to cause a sunburn. Up to 80% of ultraviolet radiation can penetrate through varying thickness of clouds. Indirect exposure to UV rays that are reflected off of water, cement, and other surfaces can also result in skin damage.

Who is at highest risk for skin damage?

There are six different skin types that vary in their susceptibility to damage from the sun's UV rays:

Skin Type Reaction to Sun
Fair skin, usually blue eyes, often freckles Burns easily and severely, tans little, often peels
Fair skin; red, blond or brown hair Usually burns easily and severely, often peels
Average Caucasian complexion, brown hair Burns moderately, tans moderately
Caucasian or light brown skin, dark brown hair, dark eyes Burns minimally, tans easily
Brown skin Rarely burns, tans easily and substantially
Dark brown or black skin Burns only with severe exposure

How can I protect my skin from the sun?

There are two ways to put a barrier between you and the sun's harmful rays. Use physical barriers, such as a long-sleeved shirt and hat, or a chemical barrier, such as a sunscreen.

How should infants and toddlers be protected from the sun?

Keep infants under six months of age out of the sun. Sunscreens are not recommended for children this young. You can begin using sunscreens at six months of age, but allow sun exposure only in moderation. Dress children for sun protection. Have them wear sun hats and opaque clothing. Use a sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 or greater and limit your child's time in the sun (especially from 10 AM to 3 PM).

How do I know which sunscreen is right for me?

Sunscreens are tested for effectiveness and given a rating called a sun protection factor (SPF). The higher the number, the greater the protection. For example, if you are fair-skinned and burn in 10 minutes, applying a sunscreen with an SPF of 15 would protect you for 15 times as long, or 150 minutes. As a guide, people with a skin type that burns easily should choose a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15 or 20.

The sunscreen you choose should offer protection from UVB and UVA rays and have an SPF number appropriate to your skin type. Apply sunscreen liberally, and be sure to reapply if washed off by perspiration or swimming.

Does a suntan protect me from UV rays?

Most people produce a pigment (melanin) in their skin through gradual exposure to the sun. We refer to this process as tanning.

Dark-skinned people have more melanin in their skin, and this natural pigmentation provides partial protection against UV rays. For light-skinned people, the tanning process represents the body's attempt to defend itself against the sun's damaging rays. The vast majority of light-skinned people cannot produce enough melanin to protect their skin from damage.

Are tanning booths a "safe" way to tan?

No. Most tanning booths use UVA rays, which penetrate the skin deeply, damaging the skin's connective tissue, causing decreased elasticity, accelerated wrinkling, and increased risk of skin cancer.

What should I do if I develop a sunburn?

There is no quick cure or first aid for a sunburn. Cool compresses or soothing lotions can sometimes help ease the discomfort. If you develop a severe sunburn, consult your doctor, dermatologist or Ask-A-Nurse at (605) 322-6877. Special medications or ointments to reduce pain and swelling and prevent infection may be suggested.

What if I detect what I think is skin cancer?

If you suspect skin cancer, consult your physician or dermatologist immediately. If detected early, most skin cancers can be treated successfully.

Melanoma, the most dangerous form of skin cancer, usually appears as a dark brown or black mole-like growth with irregular edges. It can occur anywhere on the body, even in areas that have not been exposed to the sun. Additional warning signs of melanoma can include changes in the surface of a mole: scaliness, oozing, bleeding, ulceration, or the appearance of a bump or nodule; growth of the mole (or spread of its pigment); or change in sensation including itchiness, tenderness or pain.

Unlike it's aggressive "cousins" basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas, melanoma is usually fast-growing and can spread, so early diagnosis is extremely important.

What else can I do to protect myself from the sun?

  • Some medications can increase your sensitivity to the sun. Consult your physician if you suspect that a medication might be increasing sun sensitivity.
  • Limit exposure to the sun during the period from 10 AM to 3 PM when the ultraviolet rays are the strongest.
  • Be sure to apply sunscreen before going outside. Reapply if washed off by swimming or perspiration, and apply liberally - not in thin layers.
  • Use a protective sunscreen for your lips.
  • Consider choosing cosmetics that contain sunscreens.
  • Wear sunglasses to help protect your eyes from UV rays.
  • Begin teaching children early about sun protection measures.

Grilling Safely

One of summer's greatest pleasures is cooking outdoors with family and friends. Grills provide delicious-tasting food, but they can also be dangerous. Here are some safety tips you should be aware of before firing up the grill.

Grilling with LPG (Gas) Grills

Liquified petroleum gas (LPG) is contained under pressure in a steel cylinder. The contents of a LPG cylinder have the explosive force of several sticks of dynamite. Safety measures should always be followed when dealing with cylinders.

  • Connect and use cylinders following the manufacturer's instructions. Be sure the valve is closed before removing the "POL" plug.
  • Make sure all connections are tight. Remember that fittings on flammable gas cylinders have left hand threads, requiring effort in a counterclockwise direction to tighten. To make sure connections are tight, apply a soapy solution to detect leaks. If any bubbles are found, the connection must be tightened further.
  • Do not transport LPG cylinders in the trunk of a passenger car. A filled cylinder should always be transported in an upright position on the floor of a vehicle. Make sure to keep the vehicle ventilated when transporting cylinders.
  • Never leave a cylinder in a parked car. Sitting in a hot vehicle could cause the safety relief valve to discharge gas.
  • Never use a gas grill in an enclosed space.
  • Do not smoke while handling or transporting propane cylinders.
  • Store cylinders, including those attached to barbecues, outdoors in a shaded, cool area out of direct sunlight.

Cylinders should be certified by a propane dealer. Using out of date, extremely rusted or damaged cylinders is dangerous and these can't be filled legally.

Grilling with Charcoal Grills

Although charcoal may sound less dangerous than LP gas, precautions should be taken for a safe grilling experience.

  • Never use charcoal barbecues in an enclosed space. Combustion of charcoal emits carbon monoxide (CO) gas which can be deadly.
  • Once a fire has been started, never add starter fluid.
  • Use great caution in disposing of the ashes. The safest method is to wet ashes thoroughly with water before emptying the barbecue.

Here are two safe and sure ways to light a charcoal barbeque:

The "Chimney"

  • Cut the top and bottom out of a 3 pound coffee can.
  • Punch holes along bottom side of can and set can into grill.
  • Place crumpled newspaper into the can, put charcoal on top.
  • Sprinkle lighter fluid over the coals and let soak in.
  • Light newspaper through the hole near bottom of can and your coals will be ready in about 5 minutes.
  • Wear heavy mitts when you remove the can.
  • Spread the coals with a long handled utensil.

The "Pyramid"

  • Form a flat base of charcoal.
  • Sprinkle lighter fluid on the base and let soak in.
  • Build a pyramid with the rest of the coals.
  • Light the bottom layer and your coals will be ready in about 5 minutes.
  • Use a long handled utensil to spread the coals.

Follow these guidelines and you should be grilling safely in no time!

Camping Safety

Camping is great fun for the whole family. Knowing how to stay safe in the outdoors is essential. Here are some important tips to keep the fun in your camping vacation.

Preparation For Camping

  • Buy only flame resistant tents and sleeping bags.
  • Make sure everyone know how to put out a clothing fire by STOP, DROP, and ROLL.
  • Pack snug-fitting, tightly woven, and/or short-sleeved clothes to wear while cooking or around camp fires.
  • Only carry flammable fuels in U.L. listed containers.

Setting up camp

  • Pitch your tent at least 15 feet upwind from grills and fireplaces.
  • Maintain at least a 3 foot perimeter free of leaves, dry grass, pine needles, etc., around grills, fireplaces and tents.
  • Keep a fire extinguisher (A,B,C model) or container of water near your tent at all times.
  • Use only battery-operated lights in or near tents and campers.
  • Have a pre-arranged escape plan. Be prepared to cut your way out of the tent if necessary.

Campfires and Grills

Supervise children at all times when fires are burning or grills are in use.

Thoroughly extinguish all fires (coals should be cold). Turn off all fuel lanterns and stoves before leaving the campsite or going to bed.

Wear snug-fitting, tightly woven, and/or short-sleeved clothes while cooking or around camp fires. Pull back and secure long, loose hair.

Camping Trailers

  • Use only electrically-operated lights in trailers.
  • Keep cooking and heating equipment in safe condition.
  • Check and maintain gas connections and fume vents.
  • Keep combustibles away from heating and cooking equipment.
  • Keep a fire extinguisher (A,B,C model) available at all times. Keep it by the camper exit door.
  • Develop a fire escape plan with your family.
  • Thoroughly extinguish all smoking materials with water.
  • In case of an actual or suspected fire, get everyone to safety first and call for help before trying to extinguish the flames.

Flammable Liquids

  • Store flammable liquids at a safe distance from your tent, camper, or any source of heat or open flame.
  • Use flammable liquids ONLY for their intended purpose.
  • Do not use gasoline for lanterns, stoves, etc. Only the fuels as recommend by the manufacturer should be used.
  • Fill lanterns and stoves a safe distance downwind from fireplaces, grills, and other sources of heat or open flames.
  • Always handle tanks of compressed flammable gases with caution.

First Aid

  • Stop the burning process. For clothing - STOP, DROP and ROLL. For hot liquids - remove soaked clothing immediately.
  • Cool small burns with clean water.
  • Seek medical attention for ALL but very minor burns.

Fireworks Safety

Fireworks are dangerous. Handled by professionals, fireworks can add to our enjoyment of many holidays. To keep holidays from turning into tragedies, leave fireworks to professionals who take extensive safety precautions when producing their spectacular displays.

Watch Small Children

Emergency rooms across the country treat people injured by fireworks each year. Young people suffer the majority of fireworks injuries with the most frequent injuries occurring to the hands and eyes. For children under 10, sparklers are the cause of most injuries. Children under two are especially at risk. Fascinated by the bright sparks, small children are likely to wrap their hands around a stick of fire that may be as hot as 1800 degrees!

Fireworks Can Cause Fires

Injuries are only part of the problem. In the last reported year, local fire departments around the country were called to some 51,600 fires started by fireworks.

Don't think fireworks are safe just because they are legal to buy in South Dakota. It is illegal to shoot or light any fireworks within the city limits.

Safety Tips from the Sioux Falls Fire Rescue Prevention Bureau

To help you enjoy your holiday celebration safely, the Sioux Falls Fire Rescue Prevention Bureau offers the following safety tips:

  • Have a parent or adult present
  • Always read and follow label directions
  • Buy from reliable fireworks sellers
  • Only shoot fireworks outdoors
  • Have water handy (garden hose or container of water)
  • Never experiment or attempt to make your own fireworks
  • Light one at a time
  • Dispose of properly
  • Never try to relight fireworks that did not go off the first time
  • Never give to small children
  • Never throw or shoot fireworks at another person
  • Never carry fireworks in your pocket or purse
  • Never shoot fireworks in a glass container
  • Get permission from land-owners to discharge fireworks on their property

Danger Signals

  • A firework that is leaking powder, appears to be quite old, or shows signs of mishandling may fire unpredictably and should be avoided.
  • A loose fuse may prevent the item from igniting. Avoid any fireworks device that appears to have been wet and then dried.
  • Water affects the sensitive chemicals inside fireworks. In addition, moisture can cause composition to penetrate the paper casing or cause the fuse to deteriorate.

Safety Tips for a Public Display

The fire service is usually responsible for the public's safety when a large scale fireworks display is presented. The actual firing of the display is conducted by a trained pyrotechnic operator and crew. These professionals know and comply with all state and local regulations. The following tips should help make the display more enjoyable and safer:

  • Spectators should obey all ushers or monitors and respect the safety barriers set up to allow for a safe display.
  • Resist any temptation to get close to the actual firing site. In fact, the best view of fireworks is from 1/4 mile or more away.
  • Pets have very sensitive ears and the booms and bangs associated with fireworks can be quite uncomfortable, especially to dogs. In fact, the noises could actually cause damage to your pet's ears. Leave pets at home if you are going to a fireworks show.
  • Sparklers, fountains and other items that many states allow for use by private individuals are not appropriate to use when a large crowd is present. Leave your own fireworks at home - the display will provide plenty of entertainment.

If you follow these summer tips you can avoid burns and other seasonal risks to your health!