The Florida Summertime Safety Guide

Date Created: 07/03/2017
By Christopher Hamann, M.D., ABEM, ACEP

How to stay safe in Florida during the summer months

It’s that time of year again in Florida. The season of daily thunderstorms, rising temperatures and potential threats of hurricanes and tropical storms has begun. Living in Florida has tremendous benefits, but the summertime can be dangerous and we have to prepare not only for the heat, but also for the storms. In this Florida summertime safety guide, we will go through:

  • Sun protection
  • Symptoms and treatment for dehydration and heat exhaustion
  • How to prepare for a hurricane

Sun Protection in the Summer

Sunbathing and weekend outings are prime times for sunburns for you and your child. In some cases, sunburn—depending on the UV Index factor—can occur in less than 15 minutes. Before you go outdoors, be sure to protect you and your family’s skin.

Once children reach the 6-month mark, protection from the sun can be more difficult, as sunscreens themselves can contain ingredients that are harmful to very young children. The Environmental Working Group recommends products that do not contain potential hormone disruptors. Parents should look for inactive ingredients like retinyl palmitate (vitamin A) and oxybenzone, as these can be harmful to children.

Other tips that you should follow are:

  • You can still get a sunburn on a cloudy day, so it’s best to wear sunscreen all the time.
  • If possible, avoid the sun between 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. when the sun is at its most intensity level, increasing the likelihood of sunburn.
  • Your eyes, like your skin, need protection from the sun. Make sure your family wears UVA & UVB sunglasses, proven to protect your eyes now, and may also prevent cataracts over time.
  • Read your prescription labels as some medications can make you more sensitive to the sun, including certain antibiotics, allergy medicine, and some oral diabetic medicine.

Dehydration and Heat Exhaustion

Dehydration happens when your body loses too much water without replacing it, preventing your body from performing its normal functions.  Heat exhaustion is a heat-related ailment or illness that happens to individuals who have been exposed to high temperatures.  Heat exhaustion is often accompanied by dehydration, which can both be life threatening and also share common symptoms. Both ailments should be taken seriously and it’s best to visit an urgent care or medical professional if you feel you’re suffering from either one of these.

Symptoms of Heat Exhaustion are:

  • Heavy sweating
  • Feeling weak
  • Cold, pale, and clammy skin
  • Abnormally fast or weak pulse
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

Symptoms of Dehydration can go from mild to extreme:

  • Mild to Moderate Dehydration
    • Muscle cramps
    • Minimal urination
    • Dry skin
    • Headache
    • Tiredness or Sleepiness
    • Constipation
  • Severe Dehydration: When dehydration reaches extreme levels, it can be life threatening and will require immediate medical attention. Symptoms of severe dehydration are:
    • Extreme thirst
    • Fever
    • Confusion
    • Irritability
    • Fast heartbeat
    • Rapid breathing
    • Low blood pressure

Prevention

Since dehydration at times can be life threatening, it is important that you replenish your body with water immediately after you’ve lost water. Water plays a large role in your bodily functions and is an essential part of your everyday life. Bring water with you everywhere you go and get in the practice of drinking water anytime you partake in a physical activity.

Taking the following precautions can prevent heat exhaustion:

  • Stay updated on local weather forecasts so you can plan.
  • People 65 and older, infants and children, and people with chronic medical conditions are generally more susceptible.
  • Keep cool. Stay in air-conditioned buildings as much as possible.
  • Avoid direct sunlight.
  • Restrict your outdoor activities to the cooler parts of the day - before 10:30 a.m. or after 5:30 p.m.
  • Stay hydrated. Drink more water than usual.

Preparing for a Hurricane

Living in Florida has so many benefits, but one if its disadvantages are tropical storms and hurricanes. While there are many unpredictable factors when it comes to a storm, advanced preparation will save you a lot of headaches if a storm actually does hit. Here is some helpful advice to prepare for a hurricane.

1. Check your property coverage

This should be something done well in advance of hurricane season. Ideally, when you purchase or rent a new home, you should purchase coverage to protect against flooding, as this is usually NOT a part of your standard homeowners or renters insurance. If you haven’t already, you should contact your insurance provider to purchase flood insurance. There is a thirty-day waiting period on new flood insurance policies, so you definitely need to make sure your policy is in place before a sudden storm can threaten your home.

2. Protect Your Home

There are precautionary measures you can take as part of regular maintenance, as well as actions you can take to prepare immediately before a storm. On a regular basis, maintain a clean property to prevent debris from damaging your home in strong wind, such as cleaning gutters, manicuring and trimming loose branches from bushes and trees, and checking for any rotting trees near your home that could be susceptible to falling during a storm.

Before a storm, make sure you:

  • Cover your windows. Duct tape in an ‘X’ shape is not suitable. Boarding them up is ideal.
  • Brace your doors and garage and use sandbags as a precaution to help with any flooding that may occur.
  • Create a safe room in your house. Do not stay in one that doesn’t have the windows or glass doors shielded, as one bad gust of wind can make those windows very dangerous. An interior room is ideal, such as a bathroom, hallway or closet, which will protect you from windows breaking and flying debris.

3. Make Sure You Have a First Aid Kit and Supplies

A first aid kit may already be in your house, but it is key to make sure it is up to date with the right supplies, with medicine and ointment that are not expired.  You can buy first aid kits at most grocery stores, but you can also make your own custom first aid kit.

Include the following in your first-aid kit:

·         sterile gauze pads of different sizes

·         adhesive tape

·         adhesive bandages in several sizes

·         elastic bandage

·         a splint

·         antiseptic wipes

·         soap

·         antibiotic ointment

·         antiseptic solution (like hydrogen peroxide)

·         hydrocortisone cream (1%)

·         acetaminophen and ibuprofen

·         extra prescription medications (if you have to evacuate)

·         tweezers

·         sharp scissors

·         safety pins

·         disposable instant cold packs

·         calamine lotion

·         alcohol wipes or ethyl alcohol

·         thermometer

·         plastic non-latex gloves (at least 2 pairs)

·         flashlight and extra batteries

·         a blanket

·         mouthpiece for administering CPR (can be obtained from your local Red Cross)

·         your list of emergency phone numbers

·         blanket (stored nearby)

Other supplies that you should make sure you have are:

  • Battery powered radio
  • Whistle to signal for help
  • Local maps

It is vital that you keep these supplies bagged up in a suitcase or a plastic tub, to keep dry.

Food supplies is also something you should consider as if you lose power, you need to make sure you have the right amount of water and food. Items you should have are:

Water

This is probably the most important item.

You will need:

  • A gallon of water per person per day.
  • Don’t forget your pet’s water, so buy extra if you have pets
  • Water to mix formula if you have very young children
  • Food preparation
  • Sanitation

Non-Perishable items:

It is recommended that you buy enough supplies to hold over each family member for 3 to 7 days. These items could be:

  • Canned meat, fruits, vegetables
  • Canned juices, milk, soup
  • Dried fruit
  • Peanut butter or almond butter
  • Coffee/Tea
  • Energy foods like protein bars, granola bars, trail mix and/or crackers
  • Bread
  • Food for infants

Other supplies you should have on hand are:

  • Paper plates, cups, plastic utensils
  • Sterno for cooking
  • Can opener (non-electric)
  • Plastic storage
  • Toilet paper
  • Wet wipes
  • Baby wipes
  • Liquid hand sanitizer
  • Liquid detergent
  • Feminine supplies
  • Personal hygiene items (toothpaste, deodorant, shampoo etc.)
  • Plastic garbage bags, ties (for personal sanitation uses)
  • Plastic bucket with tight lid
  • Household chlorine bleach, disinfectant
  • Plenty of absorbent towels

4. Protecting Documents

When a storm threatens, it’s important to make sure that you have important documents in a safe place, in the event that you have to evacuate or your house suffers damage.  Keeping documents in a fireproof box or safe is ideal. Documents that you should keep close would be:

  • Passports
  • Social Security Cards
  • Driver’s License
  • Credit card/debit card information
  • Insurance policies
  • Medical information
  • Will, deeds,and recent tax returns

In addition to this, if you have a computer it is important you back it up. Purchase an external hard drive, upload any important information to it, and make sure it, too, is kept safe should anything happen to your devices.

We at GuideWell Emergency Doctors wish you a safe and happy summer, but if by chance you or your family gets sick or injured, we want to make sure you get the right care and fast. GuideWell Emergency Doctors has three locations serving the Orlando area. From illness to injury, we can help. 

Christopher Hamann, M.D., ABEM, ACEP

Dr. Hamann is board certified with the American Board of Emergency Medicine. He is a graduate of the Medical College of Wisconsin and completed his residency in Emergency Medicine at the University of Florida HSC, Jacksonville, Florida. Dr. Hamann has held positions as Staff Physician at Cleveland Clinic Hospital-Naples and as Assistant Director of Emergency Medicine at Physicians Regional Medical System in Naples, Florida. Dr. Hamann has many interests including architecture, landscape design, surfing, paddle boarding, mountain biking, cooking, and baking. He and his wife, Lisa, have two daughters.

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