The unofficial start of summer is right around the corner, a time when pools throughout the country will open. It is also the perfect time to review water safety, says IU’s Bill Ramos, an internationally-known expert on water safety. The World Health Organization recently proclaimed drowning to be a global burden and the third leading cause of unintentional death on the planet. In the United States, drowning is the second main cause of unintentional deaths for children ages one to four, after birth defects. For children ages one to 14, drowning still remains the second leading cause of unintentional death behind motor vehicle crashes. As the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted all aspects of our lives, Ramos says it has the potential to impact drowning rates due to the exponential growth in home pool sales and the fact some people missed an entire pool/swim season in 2020. Ramos says because 70 percent of drownings occur in home pools, barriers, including adequate fencing and age appropriate latches/locks, are key. Additionally, Ramos says while most people have a general awareness that those using a pool should be supervised, supervision typically is not to the true degree needed. Ramos says designate a water watcher, an adult who is comfortable around the water and agrees to take a direct role of supervision without distraction or interruption during pool use. Finally, Ramos says utilize resources like the American Red Cross Water Safety for Parent and Caregivers Course to make sure everyone has fun, and stays safe, this summer.
In other news, warmer weather also means more time outdoors. And as we spend more time outdoors, Dr. Syril Keena Que, Assistant Professor of Clinical Dermatology at the IU School of Medicine, says it's especially important to remember sunscreen and sun protection. Not only will this decrease your risk of skin cancer; it will also keep you from getting sun-related wrinkles and age spots. Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States, and it is estimated that one in five Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime. Que recommends using a broad-spectrum sunscreen labeled SPF 30 or more and reapplying every 2 hours or immediately after swimming. For those with sensitive skin, Que recommends trying a sunscreen containing zinc oxide or titanium dioxide, as these ingredients tend to cause less skin irritation. Additionally, Que recommends staying in the shade or avoiding direct sunlight between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., the hours when the sun has the highest intensity. Finally, Que recommends wearing sun-protective clothing and a hat when outdoors for extended periods of time.
Finally, as more people become vaccinated and the country begins to open up, things are looking up for travel. IU professor and travel expert Evan Jordan says those whose who are vaccinated should feel comfortable resuming most travel activities. It is, of course, still important to adhere to all CDC guidelines, but they have been relaxed to the point where pretty much every travel activity is back on the table for vaccinated travelers, Jordan says. For domestic travel, Jordan sees a fairly normal summer travel season, although you'll likely find that many tourism organizations will still be cautious and will maintain their spacing and sanitation policies in the near term. Internationally, he says the trend for many destinations is relaxing restrictions for those who have been vaccinated - in particular, residents of the U.S. and the U.K. are being welcomed by an increasing number of countries. Americans can already travel to most destinations in the Caribbean, and it looks like countries in the European Union will be a travel option for Americans by mid-summer. Jordan says those looking to travel should check the CDC and US State Department websites for an up-to-date list of countries where Americans can and cannot travel and for travel warnings. In addition, Jordan says there are some great websites like Sherpa that condense all the information needed into a handy interactive world map. All in all, Jordan says the resumption of normal travel activities is a welcome reprieve for many who have been hunkered down for more than a year - and we have our mass vaccination to thank for that.