As rock musician Alice Cooper famously sang, "School's out for summer," and the combination of that freedom and the promise of nice weather means your patients likely will be spending much more time outside. That's why it's important to remind them that summer is best enjoyed when they keep their family's safety in mind, including the need to stay hydrated, use proper sun protection, and be safe in and around the pool.
To help family physicians deliver these important messages, the AAFP has created a summer safety Web page with links to Academy resources and information on FamilyDoctor.org about various summer-related health issues.
Jennifer Frost, M.D., medical director for the AAFP Health of the Public and Science Division, told AAFP News that the warm summer months offer many opportunities to enjoy the outdoors, but with this come risks that patients and physicians should be aware of.
- The AAFP has created a summer safety Web resource family physicians can use to inform patients about staying hydrated, protecting their skin from the sun and being safe at the pool.
- The resource offers a FamilyDoctor.org handout that explains the importance of hydration and offers tips for staying hydrated.
- The Web page also links to the AAFP's residential pool safety policy, which suggests supervising children younger than 4 at all times at "arm's length."
"Remind patients that dehydration is more likely during hot weather," she said. "Individuals need to ensure that they are drinking enough water to remain hydrated, especially if they plan to spend an extended amount of time outside in the heat."
The new resource allows family physicians to steer their patients to a FamilyDoctor.org handout on hydration(familydoctor.org) that explains the importance of staying hydrated and provides warning signs of dehydration, such as lack of urine, dry mouth and dizziness. It also includes water intake recommendations and tips to stay hydrated.
Patients may also benefit from a handout on heat exhaustion and heatstroke(familydoctor.org) that includes symptoms of heat illness and tips to prevent it.
Mind the Glare
Regarding sun protection, the page offers links to educate patients about skin cancer(familydoctor.org) and the risks of tanning(familydoctor.org), including information on sunless self-tanners and sunscreen tips.
The AAFP recommends counseling individuals ages 10 to 24 who have fair skin about minimizing their exposure to ultraviolet radiation to reduce the risk for skin cancer.
Frost said it's important to explain to patients that skin damage can occur from prolonged exposure to the sun. "If possible, individuals should avoid the sun during the hottest part of the day," she said. "While outside, they should use sunscreen and protective clothing, such as a wide-brimmed hat."
Feed Summer Play
More than 20 million children rely on free and reduced-price breakfast and lunch during the school year. But during the summer months, these children are at risk of going hungry.
If this describes any of your patients, make sure you tell them about the Summer Food Service Program(www.nationaldairycouncil.org), which was created to bridge the nutrition gap from one school year to the next. The program provides free, nutritious meals and snacks during the summer so children from low-income families can continue to learn, play and grow.
The AAFP is one of many supporters of this program, along with the National Dairy Council.
Play It Safe
Pool safety is another important issue during the summer months, said Frost. To address this topic, the resource includes a link to the AAFP's residential pool safety policy, which recommends, among other things, supervising children younger than 4 at all times at "arm's length."
Finally, the Web resource links to a 2013 article published in American Family Physician on preventing unintentional childhood injuries, as well as to a FamilyDoctor.org Web page on drowning prevention(familydoctor.org) and managing other risks to children. Among advice to parents included in that latter resource is a specific recommendation that parents learn CPR to respond to water injuries and the Heimlich maneuver to dislodge objects stuck in the throat.
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