July 14, 2008

Get Smart About Summer Safety

There's nothing like a Winnipeg summer. Sun-drenched blue sky and a warm prairie breeze. It feels great to be outside on a sunny day but before you head out, protect your skin from the damage.

Unprotected exposure to sun can lead to skin damage. Every second in the sun without protection exposes you to harmful UV rays that can damage skin. Even worse, it can cause skin cancer.

Although most skin cancers occur later in life, most sun exposure - about 80% - occurs by age 18. Preventing sunburns and tans, especially at a young age, is essential in reducing the chance of getting skin cancer.

Tips for Avoiding Sunburns and Suntans

1. Avoid the Sun

  • Limit time in the sun between 11:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m.

  • Keep babies under one year of age out of direct sunlight as much as possible - cover them up.

  • Look for shade to do outdoor activities

2. Cover Up

  • Wear clothing to protect as much skin as possible

  • Wear a hat with a wide brim or with a flap to cover the back of the neck

3. Sun Protection

  • Put on UV protective sunglasses

  • Apply an SPF broad-spectrum lip balm

  • Use sunscreen with SPF 15 or higher and UVA & UVB protection

Note: Do not apply sunscreens for infants under 6 months of age.

Prevent Heat-Related Illness

High humidity can put you at risk for heat-related illnesses such as heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Very young children and older adults are most at risk.

Tips to help protect you against the effects of heat related illnesses:

1. Drink

  • Drink lots of water, especially during periods of physical activity or exertion

  • Avoid drinks with caffeine or alcohol

  • Eat smaller meals more frequently

2. Avoid the Heat

  • Plan activities during cooler times of the day

  • Spend some time each day in a cool place

  • Cool down by using fans, spending time in the coolest room of your home, or taking a cool shower

  • Avoid using the oven or other heat-producing appliances during the hottest part of the day

3. Cover up, practice sun protection and use sunscreen

For more information, download our Sun Safety Guide

Insect Bite Protection

Generally, insect bites are more a nuisance than a health concern. However, bites from some species of mosquitoes and ticks can spread viruses and bacteria that cause illnesses such as West Nile fever and Lyme disease.

There are various ways to protect against insect bites:

1. Environment - Get rid of standing water around your home. (Less than a cup of standing water in your yard can complete the life cycle of mosquitoes).

2. Avoidance - If possible, avoid being outside between dusk and dawn when mosquitoes are most active and avoid hiking in the bush where ticks are known to be common; inspect yourself, children and pets after being in an area that may have ticks.

3. Barriers - Light-coloured loose-fitting clothing with long sleeves and pant legs (tucked into socks) can reduce mosquito and tick bites. Screened doors and windows can keep mosquitoes out of your home.

4. Insecticides and Repellents - Mosquito coils or heated pads/mats (e.g., OFF! Mosquito Lamp) can reduce your chances of being bitten by mosquitoes. Insect repellents containing up to 30% DEET are very effective in preventing mosquito or tick bites. Alternative products for persons allergic to DEET include lemon eucalyptus oil-based (e.g., OFF! Botanicals) and soybean oil-based (e.g., Bite Blocker) products. Low concentration DEET (7-10%) and soybean oil-based products are safe to use in pregnant women and children under 2 years. Citronella-based products are not effective and not recommended.

For more information visit Manitoba Health's West Nile Virus website.

Be Food Safe

Hot, humid weather creates the perfect conditions for the rapid growth of bacteria. People are also cooking outside at picnics, barbeques and camping trips without easy access to refrigeration and washing facilities
that can increase the risk.

In most cases, foodborne contamination cannot be detected by sight, smell or taste, and contamination can occur in a few short hours. Symptoms associated with food poisoning typically include nausea, vomiting,
diarrhea, fever or cramps.

Fortunately, many foodborne illnesses are preventable by following proper food handling and preparation techniques.

1. Clean - Wash hands and surfaces often. Wash raw fruits and veggies in clean water.

2. Separate - Pack raw foods from cooked foods separately and use different plates and utensils for each.

3. Cook and Chill - Keep hot food hot and cook to the required temperature. Keep cold food cold.

For more information visit the Canadian Food Inspection Agency's section on Food.


For more health and wellness news, pick up the Summer 2008 edition of Aspire, now available at selected WRHA offices and facilities.

Aspire is also available for download here:

Aspire - Summer 2008

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