Safety a concern as summer arrives

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By Calen McKinney

Temperatures on Tuesday broke 90 degrees for the first time this month.

And, as spring turns to summer on Saturday, temperatures will likely only continue to rise.

According to Kentucky Mesonet data, the high on Tuesday was 90.7 degrees. The low was 62.3 degrees, with the average at 76.5.

So far for the month of June, the average temperature has been 81.1 degrees.

As hot weather nears, some residents head for the indoors. Others head for the pool instead.

Steve Doss, manager of the city pool, said attendance so far this year has been down when compared to last year. But he said he expects that to change as summer heats up.

Several improvements have been made at the pool in the last few years, he said, and rumors circulating that a leak would prevent it from opening at all this year aren't true.

By the middle of June, Doss said, there have typically been weekend crowds of more than 100 people at the pool. That hasn't happened this year.

Nevertheless, he said, a pool is a good way to cool off in hot weather. But it's good to be aware of what time of day is best to swim.

The middle of the day isn't a good time to be outside for an extended period, he said, because that's when the sun is the hottest.

The pool is open Monday through Saturday from 11:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and Sundays from 1 to 5 p.m.

Doss said he realizes the pool is open during the times residents should try and stay indoors.

"Pool water's perfect," he said. "At least you've got the comfort of the water."

While the pool might provide relief to hot temperatures, Doss said, it doesn't provide protection. Doss said sunscreen is sold at the pool for those who forget to apply it before coming.

Doss said he recommends people wear a high SPF sunscreen to make sure their skin doesn't burn.

"If you don't have a 30 or above, I think most people are wasting their time."

Those who swim should reapply their sunscreen after taking a dip, Doss said, to make sure they stay protected.

Doss said his lifeguards are good about using sunscreen properly. Pool employees are outside for an hour and then inside for a half hour, Doss said, to make sure they don't get too much sun exposure.

Doss said those who have to be out in the sun should try to find shade and always wear a wide-brimmed hat. Sunscreen should also be applied to the ears and face.

Some people forget about their ears, he said, and too much exposure has been said to cause some types of skin cancers.

Cancer isn't the only illness that can be caused by too much sun exposure, according to Dana Garrett, Taylor Regional Hospital's chief nursing officer.

People can experience heat exhaustion and dehydration from being out in the sun, along with severe sunburn and an increased risk for heart attacks.

Garrett said it's best to be out in the sun only in the early mornings and late afternoons. And though some prefer sports drinks, she said, water is best.

"You want to make sure you stay hydrated."

Garrett also recommends people wear light colors in the sun and cotton clothing that is breathable and not too tight. She recommends 50 SPF sunscreen or higher.

"The highest SPF possible is the best," Garrett said.

Though TRH hasn't seen many patients with heat exhaustion yet, Garrett said, that will likely spike in the next few weeks. People will be outside working in crops for the next few weeks, she said, and often become too hot.

When the body gets too hot, she said, it can no longer regulate its temperature and sometimes becomes toxic. And that can cause a number of problems.

"You can have severe sunburn," Garrett said. "There is such a thing as sun poisoning."

As the July Fourth holiday nears, and people will likely be outside for extended periods of time, Garrett recommends standing or sitting in shaded areas and using cooling wraps.

"Stay hydrated," she said. "Hydration and looking for that shade are the Top 2."

Garrett said it's important to remember that sunburns can happen even on cool days, like last weekend.

"You can had a cloudy day and still get sunburn," she said. "And you can dehydrate."

Garrett says parents should pay close attention to their children when they are outside, and notice if their skin becomes dry or their lips crack.

"Kids can't [always] tell you when they need water," she said. "Look for signs of dehydration."

Summer Predictions

This summer is likely to be hotter than last year's.

Pat Hardesty, Taylor County extension agent for agriculture and natural resources, said last summer was mild.

"It was a good and challenging year last year for crops," he said. "We had good yields."

Though cool temperatures delayed the maturity of crops last summer, Hardesty said they still produced well, even though harvest was late. Warmer weather this year, he said, has proven good for this year's crops.

"It seems like they really took off good within the last week or so with the warmer temperatures."

This spring has proven to be a good one, Hardesty said, with a mix of rain and climbing temperatures. Farmers are mostly through planting now, he said.

Those who have livestock and pets that will be outdoors this summer should be sure and provide extra care for them in the heat.

"You need to provide plenty of cool water and shade to help them through the hot summer months."

Ticks have come out this season, Hardesty said, so livestock and pets should be searched for them, as should people when they have been in a wooded area. And farmers should also be sure to protect themselves from sunburn.

"We wear baseball hats and we really should wear wide-brimmed hats," he said.

Hardesty said he hopes this year will be a good one for crops.

"There's still a lot of time left this summer," he said.

Staying Safe in the Sun

• When possible, avoid outdoor activities during the hours between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., when the sun's rays are the strongest.

• Always wear a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher.

• Be sure to reapply sunscreen frequently, especially after swimming, heavily sweating or drying off with a towel.

• Wear a hat with a 4-inch brim all around it to protect areas often exposed to the sun such as the neck, ears, eyes, forehead, nose and scalp.

• Wear clothing to protect as much of the skin as possible. Long-sleeved shirts, long pants and long skirts are the most protective.

• To protect the eyes from sun damage, wear sunglasses that block 99 to 100 percent of UVA and UVB radiation.

• Consider wearing cosmetics and lip protectors with an SPF of at least 15 to protect the skin year-round.

• Swimmers should remember to regularly reapply sunscreen. UV rays reflect off water and sand, increasing the intensity of UV radiation.

• Some medications, such as antibiotics, can increase the skin's sensitivity to the sun. Ask a doctor or pharmacist for more information.

• Children need extra protection from the sun. One or two blistering sunburns before the age of 18 dramatically increases the risk of skin cancer. Encourage children to play in the shade, wear protective clothing and apply sunscreen regularly.

-Kentucky Division of Emergency Management