June 30, 2006

Summer Survival Guide

Safety Tips For The 4th Of July And Summer

The 4th of July and warm weather bring long hours at the beach, barbecues, picnics and fireworks; but while the summer holiday is lots of fun, it also can be hazardous.

The University of California, San Diego Medical Center offer these tips and guidelines for preventing accidents, so parents can assure that kids enjoy the sun and fun without running into potential hazards during the summer, and what to do in case of emergency.

Sunburns and Sunglasses

The UCSD Regional Burn Center expects to treat numerous children and adults with severe sunburns during the summer season.

“Often someone has dozed off while lying in the sun by the pool or at the beach. Even if the weather is not extremely hot, severe sunburn can occur on gloomy days due to the intensity of the ultraviolet rays,” said Bruce Potenza, M.D., UCSD Regional Burn Center. Additionally, sun reflected off the water is even more intense and can lead to more serious burns.

The UCSD Burn Center recommends covering up, avoid falling asleep in the sun, and always apply sunscreen of 25 SPF or higher to prevent sunburn.

It is generally recommended that children of all ages be kept out of strong, prolonged sunlight, however, sunscreen can be safely used from age six months forward. Children younger than six months should be kept out of prolonged, intense sunlight. However, if for some reason, it is unavoidable for an infant to be in the sunlight, sunscreen is probably safe at any age.

Children and adults should wear sunglasses. Sunglasses are sunscreens for the eyes. Without sunglasses, your eyes are unprotected from the harmful UVA and UVB rays of the sun. Sunglasses can be the main factor in saving your eyes from sight-ending diseases such as macular degeneration.

“Wear eye protection when playing sports is a must,” said David Granet, M.D., UCSD Shiley Eye Center. Sports injuries to the eye represent a significant eye health hazard. Eyewear prescribed for sports should have lenses fabricated from impact-resistant lens material.

Hot Coals

Each year the UCSD Regional Burn Center treats patients who have stepped or fallen on burning coals at the beach and bay. Kids hit the beach running and before they realize it they are walking or falling on hot coals buried under the sand. Parents should always keep a watchful eye on toddlers and children, and adults should be cautious of fire rings or fire pits and avoids these areas.

Hot coals covered by sand can retain an intense heat for up to 24 hours. Anyone who walks or falls on the hot coals can be severely burned and a child can sustain life-threatening burns. Hot coals should always be disposed of in designated containers at the beach or bay.


Fireworks are illegal in San Diego County and extremely dangerous, especially those purchased in Mexico. Each year the UCSD Regional Burn Center treats patients who have suffered fire-works related injury, including from small fireworks called “poppers” that can explode in a child’s pocket and set the child’s clothes on fire, resulting in serious burns.

Lamp Oil and Lighter Fluid

Oil-filled lamps or torches on patios and backyards can cause life-threatening pneumonia in young children and adults if the fuel is inhaled.

“A common source of exposure occurs when lamp oil or lighter fluid is placed in a drinking cup or other container in order to transfer it to the lamp, torch or barbecue,” said Richard Clark, M.D., UCSD Emergency Department and Medical Director, California Poison Control System (CPCS).

If someone mistakenly drinks from the cup, the person risks inhaling the lamp oil or lighter fluid. Inhalation into the lungs can cause life-threatening pneumonia, especially in young children. The person will aspirate lamp oil into their lungs and require hospitalization. Each year, the Poison Center receives an average of 400 calls regarding the ingestion of lamp oil and lighter fluid. The majority of these cases involve children under the age of five.

Never transfer lamp oil or lighter fluid in a container normally used for eating or drinking. Lamp oil and lighter fluid should be stored in the original child-resistant packaging and insure the lid is securely tightened and out of the reach of children immediately after use.

A Safe Picnic

For a worry-free picnic, keep perishable food—ham, potato or macaroni salad, hamburgers, hot dogs, lunch meat, cooked beef or chicken, deviled eggs, custard or cream pies— in a cooler with ice.

“Put leftovers back in the cooler as soon as you finish eating,” said Dr. Clark. “When possible, store the cooler in the passenger area of the car during the trip home. It’s cooler than the trunk.”

Toddlers can choke trying to swallow large bites of picnic foods, such as hot dogs, hard-boiled eggs, or marshmallows. Cut hot dogs lengthwise in narrow strips before serving, slice up other foods into small bite-sized pieces, and keep children seated while they are eating.

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