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7 tips for summer health and safety

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(BPT) - Summer is just around the corner. After the crazy weather we've had nationwide, most everyone is excited to have fun in the sun. As you prepare for lazy days at the beach, traveling with family and backyard barbecues with friends, it's important to keep your health and safety in mind. Here are some tips to keep you healthy and happy as you and your family enjoy the warmer weather.

1. Be sun safe. Sunscreen is a must! The American Academy of Dermatologists Association recommends using a broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher, and reapply every two hours, more often if you're swimming. Make sure you hit places people often miss — your ears, neck and the top of your head. Sun protective clothing is also a great ally, especially if you're outside hiking, picnicking or watching the kids play softball. A wide-brimmed hat can protect your face and it's a fashion statement! Good sunglasses round out your ensemble so you're styling and protected from the sun.

2. Get a summer checkup. If you plan to travel, see your primary care provider before you go to make sure your vaccinations, prescriptions and other healthcare needs are up to date. And don't forget about your vision! Summer is a great time to schedule an eye exam. Many employee health plans do not include vision, so people can put off this important appointment. But making sure your eyes are in great shape is vital. You can save on your next eye exam with a vision insurance plan, like the one from VSP Individual Vision Plans. Their plans start at as little as $13 per month, and can save you a bundle while you keep your eyes healthy. VSP has the largest doctor network out there and offers 20% savings on additional glasses or prescription sunglasses, including lens enhancements, from a VSP network doctor within 12 months of your last exam. VSP doesn't have open enrollment periods, so you can start the process anytime, and compare plans to meet your individual needs.

3. Beat the heat. Remember, the sun's rays are the strongest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. If possible, plan outdoor activities before or after this window, or find shady spots for your family to relax and enjoy the day without those harsh rays.

4. Drink plenty of water. Even mild dehydration can make you feel tired, and heat stroke is a dangerous situation. Stay hydrated by carrying water or other non-sugary drinks, and sip often! Watch for signs of heat stroke such as headaches, dizziness, nausea or vomiting. Bottom line, if you notice you're feeling dragged out and tired in the heat, get inside, drink some water and cool off before it becomes more serious.

5. Plan for bugs. Nobody wants their day outside to be ruined by the irritating creepy-crawlies. Remember to put bug spray or repellent devices in your bag.

6. Travel with a first aid kit. Whether it's a kids' soccer game or a family road trip, you should keep a first aid kit in the car. Stock it with antiseptic wipes or spray, bandages of various sizes, gauze and tape, tweezers to remove splinters or ticks, scissors, lotion to soothe sunburn or insect bites, antibiotic ointment like Neosporin, and pain relievers.

7. Practice food safety. Summer is the time for picnics, backyard barbecues and meals on sunny porches. Enjoy eating al fresco, but make sure you think about food safety. In warm temperatures, bacteria can multiply quickly. Remember the two-hour rule: Perishable foods like deli salads and meats should not sit out at room temperature for more than two hours. But, if you're outside in the heat, that rule goes out the window. Keep hot foods hot, like those burgers you've cooked on the grill, and cold foods cold, with ice bowls or freezer packs.

Follow these tips and have a happy, healthy summer! Make the most of the balmy weather with family and friends, find a soothing, shady spot to read a good book, and enjoy!