State Health Department Reminds New Yorkers to Stay Safe This Summer While Enjoying the Outdoors

ALBANY, N.Y. (June 19, 2015) - Summer in New York is like no place else. In every corner of the state there are hundreds of opportunities to enjoy the outdoors no matter if you like to fish, hunt, camp, swim, boat, or hike. However, if not done safely, these activities could potentially put New Yorkers in harm's way. Summer officially begins on June 21, so the New York State Department of Health is offering New Yorkers tips for staying safe and healthy this summer while enjoying all that New York State has to offer.

"New York has a wealth of options for outdoor summer recreation, ranging from any one of the 180 state parks to attractions like the historic Erie Canal," said New York State Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker. "These locations present wonderful opportunities for staying active and having fun. However, without practicing safe behaviors, the health and safety of New Yorkers could be at risk. With that in mind, I urge everyone to learn the best ways to stay safe while having fun in the sun or water."

Knowing how to stay safe during periods of high temperatures is one of the most essential steps a New Yorker can take. Excessive heat is the leading cause of preventable, weather-related deaths each year, particularly among the elderly. According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), heat causes more than 650 preventable deaths in the United States each year. In most years, excessive heat causes more deaths than floods, lightning, tornadoes, and hurricanes combined. According to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and National Weather Service statistics, there have been more than 80 deaths directly attributable to heat in New York State since 2006.

During extreme heat:

  • NEVER leave children, pets or those who require special care in a parked car or other vehicles! Vehicles can reach dangerous temperatures quickly.
  • Wear sunscreen! The sun's direct rays contain ultraviolet radiation which is the main risk factor for skin cancer. Be sure to protect yourself by using sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) rating of at least 15 and a hat to protect your face and head. When outdoors, wear loose-fitting, lightweight and light-colored clothing. Cover as much skin as possible to avoid sunburn and over-warming effects of sunlight on your body.
  • Minimize strenuous activity during peak sun hours! The sun's peak hours are from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., so try to schedule exercise or other strenuous activity during early morning hours or in the evening, when the temperatures tend to be lower.
  • Stay Hydrated! Drink at least 2-4 glasses of water per hour during extreme heat, even if you do not feel thirsty. Avoid beverages containing alcohol or caffeine.
  • Stay cool! The sun heats the inner core of your body, which may result in dehydration. New Yorkers should seek out air conditioning at a mall, restaurant, house of worship, public building or designated cooling center. If air conditioning is not available, stay on the lowest floor, out of the heat.
  • Be a good neighbor! Make an effort to check on your neighbors during a heat wave, especially the elderly, infants, young children, or others with special needs.
  • Don't forget about pets! Make sure they have enough water and food and limit their exercise during periods of extreme temperatures.

Excessive heat can also be beat by enjoying a swim in your local pool, lake, or other water source, making safety at these locations, vital. Drowning is a leading cause of injury-related deaths in children of all age groups, and near drowning incidents often result in lifelong medical conditions. Approximately 28 children up to age 19 die from drowning each year in New York State. More than one-third of these deaths are children aged one through four years.

Tips to keep your family safe while enjoying the water include:

  • Supervision. Make sure your child, or anyone, never swims alone, especially in unfamiliar water. Also, be sure to avoid alcohol use when supervising children.
  • Teach your child how to swim. Not being able to swim (or overestimating swimming abilities) may lead to injuries. However, knowing how to swim alone does not prevent drowning.
  • Life jackets. Always have your child wear a life jacket approved by the U.S. Coast Guard while on boats, around open bodies of water or when participating in water sports. Adults should wear life jackets for their own protection and to set a good example.
  • Swimming conditions vary by location. Make sure your family is aware that open waters, such as lakes, rivers and oceans have currents, rocks and uneven surfaces, which may be unfamiliar and pose hazards to swimmers.
  • Make sure your pool is safe.New York State law requires that private pools be fenced and equipped with alarms that can detect when someone or something enters the water.
  • Avoid rough play. Make sure your family, especially teens, do not engage in risk-taking behavior, like rough play while swimming or boating. These activities can cause many drowning or near drowning injuries.
  • Be aware of special medical conditions. Make sure those with heath conditions and seizure disorders take special care while swimming. Drowning is the most common cause of unintentional injury death for persons with seizures.

For more information on how to stay safe during excessive summer heat, visit http://www.health.ny.gov/publications/1243/.

For more information for avoiding risk factors for skin cancer, visit http://www.health.ny.gov/diseases/cancer/skin/.

For more information about water safety and drowning prevention, visit http://www.health.ny.gov/prevention/injury_prevention/children/fact_sheets/birth-19_years/drowning_prevention_birth-19_years.htm.