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Summertime safety in Oregon

The weather is getting warmer and people can be found all over outside. While there is plenty of fun in the sun there are also some safety issues to consider.

The first safety issue of summer is sunshine. The National Safety Council (NSC) suggests preventative measures when it comes to sun safety. Wear sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15 and try to avoid direct sun exposure from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. Remember you can also get a sunburn on a cloudy day.

If you do get sunburned the American Red Cross says to treat the burn with a cool compress or a bath. Gels with menthol, lidocaine, or aloe vera can also be effective.

The sun safety Web site,, lists drugs and cosmetics that could enhance your susceptibility to sunburn. Drugs such as tetracycline, diuretics, major tranquilizers and birth control pills can cause photosensitive reactions. Consult your physician for further details.

The NSC suggests wearing a good pair of sunglasses to ward off the sun from your eyes. The looser the sunglasses are on your head the better. Also wear a wide-brimmed hat, long-sleeved shirt and pants if possible.

Heat stroke and heat exhaustion are also dangers of sun exposure. According to the Center for Disease Control, the warning signs include high body temperature, red skin with no sweating, rapid pulse, headache, nausea or confusion. Get medical attention immediately if you or someone you know exhibits these symptoms.

What goes with sunshine? Cookouts! There are some safety precautions people can take when having cookouts and picnics. According to the NSC, pack well-wrapped food in an insulated cooler and keep the cooler in the shade with the lid on. Cook meat thoroughly and eat everything within a two-hour time period and return leftovers to the cooler.

The National Fire Protection Association says to keep the grill far from anything that can burn, such as homes, cars, dry vegetation, kids and pets.

Drinking typically accompanies the summer BBQ. According to the NSC, even one or two drinks can affect how you drive. At any summertime gathering where there is alcohol, choose a designated driver and make sure that person sticks to non-alcoholic beverages.

In the great outdoors, everything from insects to plants can cause harm.

Wasp and bee stings are not only annoying, but they can be deadly, according to the NSC. When stung, people can experience pain, redness and swelling. Clean the wound with soap and water. Remove any stinger without squeezing the poison sack by gently sliding a fingernail or pointed object across the wound. Ice will reduce swelling and slow the spread of the poison. Take Benadryl to help with any reaction. If you experience itching rash all over your body, followed by tongue and throat swelling and shortness of breath, then go to the emergency room immediately.

The NSC states that prevention is the most important step. Avoid wearing bright clothes or perfumes when going outdoors. If a wasp or a bee comes near, move slowly away and do not swat at it.

Ticks are other insects to watch out for in the summer. Tick bites can lead to Lyme disease, which is characterized by rash or flu-like symptoms. The Chemical Specialties Manufacturers Association says to use insect repellent that contains DEET when in tick-infested woods and fields.

The NSC recommends wearing light-colored clothing and tucking pant legs into socks and your shirt into your pants. Inspect your entire body for ticks. Remove any ticks with tweezers and treat any bites with a topical antibiotic.

Additional potential risks are poisonous plants such as poison oak, poison ivy, stinging nettles and hogweed.

Poison ivy and poison oak both have three leaflets per stem and depending on the region, the plants can grow as a shrub or climbing vine. According to the American Red Cross, people can get the rash by touching the plant, touching clothing or shoes that have the sap on them, touching pets that have the sap on them or by coming into contact with the smoke of the burning plants.

The NSC suggests removing all clothes and shoes that have touched the plant. Use soap and water to wash your skin and cotton balls to apply rubbing alcohol to any affected skin. Medications that could help are Calamine (not Caladryl) lotion, Zinc oxide ointment or a paste of three teaspoons baking soda and one teaspoon water to cover the rash. Soaking in baths of warm water and oatmeal baths can also be helpful. Seek professional help right away if symptoms continue, spread or worsen.

According to the Web site,, stinging nettles are a problem plant particular to the Northwest. When a person brushes against the plant and it touches the skin, the tiny hollow hairs break off and release an acid that irritates the skin and causes white itchy spots to appear.

According to the site, some people suffer from the sting for as long as 24 hours, while others only have the sensation for an hour or so. Applying a paste of baking soda made with a little water soothes the sting for most people if applied to the site immediately. Spit will work if baking soda is not immediately available.

The Washington State University Web site focuses on a different dangerous plant, the giant hogweed. Hogweed has recently been found in the Pacific Northwest region. The plant has a clear, watery sap that contains glucoside, which causes phyto-dermatitis. Skin contact with sap followed by exposure to sunlight can produce painful, burning blisters that may develop into purplish or blackened scars. Any contact with this plant requires urgent professional medical attention.

Things to have in the summer medicine cabinet:

  • Sunscreen
  • Gels with menthol or lidocaine
  • Aloe vera
  • Benadryl
  • Calamine lotion
  • Zinc oxide ointment
  • Baking soda
  • Insect repellent
  • Oatmeal Bath-such as Aveeno