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Checklist For A Safe And Healthy Summer

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Guest Post: As AARP's Sustainability Manager, Pam Evans has led the effort to incorporate environmentally responsible practices into AARP's internal business operations. She's passionate about educating members on the importance of responsible use of resources, and the direct connection between the declining health of the environment and the health of our, and future, generations. 

June is ' Great Outdoors Month' and each region of the country offers its unique way in which we welcome the summer.

One of my favorite summer memories is when dad would come home on Friday afternoons and say "Let's go camping this weekend"! Believe it or not, in the 60's we could actually throw the tent, the 'chuck box' and all 7 of us in the station wagon and be camping on San Clemente State Beach a couple of hours later. Ah the good old days!

Summer is indeed in full swing and whether you live in California, Virginia, Maine or Texas, here are 5 ways to make sure you're armed and ready for the toll summer can take on you, and your family's health.

Heat & Sun Safety: Skin cancer/melanoma is the most common cancer among young adults, and there will be over 2,000,000 (yes MILLION) TOTAL new cases diagnosed in 2012. It's true that sun damage is cumulative, but it's still important to protect our skin in our golden years (pun intended!)

I love that 'healthy glow' as much as the next person and admit to more than a few hours spent on the deck of a cruise ship in April, but never without at least SPF 30 mineral based sunscreen all over plus a wide brimmed hat to help avoid any more wrinkles on this 50+ year old face.

Check the UV Index and heat index for an accurate forecast of the strength of the sun's ultraviolet radiation and the heat & humidity forecasts for your area before heading out.

Insect RepellentsEffective insect repellents can protect you from serious mosquito- and tick-borne diseases. In the United States, mosquitoes can transmit diseases like St. Louis encephalitis and West Nile virus. Ticks can transmit serious diseases like Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever  and Ehrlichiosis.

Know the insect hazards in your area and use the appropriate repellent. I like to access the Environmental Working Group's "Skin Deep" database  to find the products with the lowest toxicity ratings.

Hurricane Readiness: 37 million Americans, about 12% of our population, live in coastal areas from North Carolina to Texas - hurricane areas. Having lived through a doozy and gone without electricity for four days, I know first hand how important it is to have batteries, clean water and other basic supplies on hand in case of emergency.

Many medications require refrigeration; make sure you have a clear action plan for dealing with the loss of electricity for medications or medical devices you or a loved one relies on.

Air Quality Index: Did you know that 10 - 20%  of all summertime respiratory-related hospital visits in some areas of the U.S. are associated with ozone pollution, which is especially worse in hot weather. Ozone pollution can affect anyone who spends time outdoors in the summer, particularly children and the elderly and repeated exposure to ozone pollution may cause permanent damage to the lungs. Even low ozone levels can trigger health problems in some people when it is inhaled; these can include chest pains, coughing, nausea, throat irritation, and congestion.

It's important to check the air quality index before making plans that might put you or your family's health in danger.

Check the Beach Water Quality The CDC has found the incidence of infections associated with recreational water use has steadily increased over the past decades.

While it's a bummer to have to stay out of  your favorite spot at the lake, river or ocean, suffering from gastroenteritis, dysentery, and vomiting are even more of a bummer!  More serious pathogens can lead to neurologic infections and more.

I experienced this firsthand when my daughter, just home from college, went tubing in the local river with friends. Two days later she was in the hospital with a foot the size of Texas and the infectious disease specialists trying to figure out which bacteria had entered the tiny cut on her foot. A 3-day hospital stay and massive doses of IV antibiotics later, she came home on crutches. Needless to say, she won't be dipping her toes in that river any time soon.

I hope you have some great plans with family and friends this summer. With a little preparation and pre-outing location checks, it's sure to be one to remember.

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