A family wearing backpacks hike in a forest

Tips for Summertime Safety

One of the best things about summer is enjoying time outside with family. Warm weather and long days provide plenty of opportunities for playing, hiking, going on picnics or bike rides, and exploring. The season also brings up summer-specific health issues, like stronger sun and certain insects. Here is a quick guide to staying safe this summer from the West Des Moines Community Schools (WDMCS).

Sun Safety Tips: UVA and UVB Rays

sunglassesFind shade. This tip seems obvious, but is still important and often ignored. Keep this in mind especially when the sun is strongest, between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., or when your shadow is shorter than you are.

Protect your skin. There are many ways to do this, including covering up with clothing and hats and wearing sunscreen. Make sure sunscreen is an appropriate SPF, and that you can’t see sunlight through clothing. If you can, the rays can also get through to your skin.

Wear the right sunglasses. Wearing sunglasses is common, but wearing sunglasses that truly protect eyes is not. Many people wear fashion sunglasses or sunglasses that do not wrap around far enough. Find glasses that cover the whole eye area and that block both UVA and UVB rays. The best sunglasses will block 99-100 percent of the rays.

Insect Safety Tips: Ticks and Mosquitoes

Wear protective clothing when going outside. Hats, long-sleeve shirts, long pants, and socks are a good idea, though it may be too hot for this in summer. Find lightweight clothing, or protect your skin in other ways, and always remember to stay hydrated. Hair should be covered, and long hair should be tied back.

Young children pose outside of tentMosquitoes are most active at dawn and dusk, so limit outdoor activity at these times. Ticks like humid environments, so avoid wooded areas, and even area with higher amounts of shrubs, plant litter, and tall grass. Walk in the center of trails. Always apply insect repellent before going outside. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends various repellents for ticks and mosquitoes and provides a tool that helps select the right repellent for the circumstances.

An important part of treating insect bites is doing it right after coming inside. Any mosquito bites should be treated promptly. The bites can be itchy, but will go away in time. Try to avoid scratching. For itch relief, use hydrocortisone cream or calamine lotion. An ice or cold pack might also help. Mosquitoes can pass on West Nile virus, which has a variety of symptoms. See a healthcare professional if symptoms manifest.

Tick bites are not as immediately apparent as mosquito bites. To prevent them:

  • Kill ticks left on clothing by tumbling clothes in a dryer on high heat for one hour.
  • Shower or bathe within two hours of coming inside. This is a good chance to perform a full-body tick check. Pay special attention to hair, under arms, belly button, behind the knees, around the waist, the groin area, and in and around ears.
  • Check pets and any gear. Ticks can enter the house on animals or equipment, then attach to people later.
Source: Center for Disease Control and Prevention

Source: Center for Disease Control and Prevention

Remove attached ticks as soon as possible. Grasp the tick with tweezers, getting as close to the skin as possible, and pull it straight out. Clean the bite and wash hands with soap and water, rubbing alcohol, or an iodine scrub.

In the weeks following a tick bite, watch for signs of illness like a rash or fever. See a healthcare professional if they develop. Knowing information like the bite location, where the tick was picked up, and how long the tick was attached may be helpful.

These tips can help keep families stay safe during the summer months. Parents or guardians can help younger children follow them and encourage older children to form healthy habits early on. With the first official day of summer coming up on Sunday, June 21, families have the opportunity to enjoy the outdoors in a fun, safe way.


Many thanks to WDMCS Community Education, which first compiled these tips.



CDC: Don’t Get Burned!
American Cancer Society
CDC:  Stop Mosquitos
CDC: West Nile virus site
Mayo Clinic: Treating Mosquito Bites
CDC: Stop Ticks
CDC: Tick Removal