Having Fun & Staying Safe this Summer
Having Fun & Staying Safe this Summer
Many of us spend the autumn, winter and spring longing for the summer to come – and now that it is here, there are some things to consider and keep in mind while you are out and about this summer to stay safe and healthy.
Most of us will be spending time in the water this summer, having fun and cooling off. Whether we are at a swimming pool or at a lake, we may assume that because there is a lifeguard and many other people around, that we’d be rescued if an accident were to happen.
This year, in partnership with the Alberta Lifesaving Society, the Epilepsy Association of Calgary has created a poster ahead of National Drowning Prevention Week (July 19th to 26th) all about staying safe in the water. For people with epilepsy, an accident can happen extremely quickly in the water, so there are important things to be aware of. Please see the poster below on Water Safety and check out our Water Safety Fact Sheet (www.epilepsycalgary.com/resources ) for more information.
Sun & Heat Safety
It is hard to avoid the sun and the heat in the summertime. Most of us embrace the warmth, and are not always careful to take the necessary precautions. To stay safe in the sun, there are a few easy steps to follow.
• Be sure to wear a hat and sunglasses at all times to protect your head and eyes
• Apply a UVA/UVB Sunscreen with a minimum SPF of +30 and be sure to reapply after sweating or being in water
• If possible, stay out of the sun during the hottest part of the day, usually between 11am and 4pm
• If you are outside, seek out shade often
• Stay hydrated by drinking lots of water
Heatstroke is a serious medical emergency that can set in fairly quickly if you are not careful to take sun precautions. Signs of heatstroke include:
• Throbbing headache
• Dizziness and light-headedness
• Lack of sweating despite the heat
• Red, hot, and dry skin
• Muscle weakness or cramps
• Nausea and vomiting
• Rapid heartbeat, which may be either strong or weak
• Rapid, shallow breathing
• Behavioral changes such as confusion, disorientation, or staggering
If you are feeling any (or all) of these symptoms, it is extremely important to remove yourself from the sun, rest and drink water. In more serious cases of heatstroke, immediate medical attention is necessary.
For some people diagnosed with epilepsy, time spent out in the heat (whether a little bit of time or a long time) can be a trigger for seizures to occur. It is important to keep yourself safe and take breaks from the sun if you know you are prone to heat-triggered seizures.
Having a lot of fun in the sun and getting exhausted can also be a trigger for some people with epilepsy. Keep an eye on children if they are playing out in the sun and be sure they take a break to slow down, rest and have some water.
Alcohol & Medications
Summer brings lots of great things, including music festivals, the Calgary Stampede, camping trips – with all of those generally comes a few (or more) cool beverages. It is generally advised that people diagnosed with epilepsy stay away from alcohol, even if it is not being drunk in excess. There are some anti-epileptic drugs (AED’s) that are rendered ineffective or dangerous if a person takes them and drinks alcohol (in any amount). Other medications may cause sensitivity to alcohol because of the way both the medications and alcohol are processed within the body. It is important to check with your doctor and your pharmacist if it is okay for you to have alcohol or not.
If you do plan on drinking is to make sure you stay hydrated with water, are eating food and are staying out of the sun. Do not drink to excess and be careful not to put yourself in an unsafe situation. Always have a plan for a safe way home and never drink by yourself.
For many people with epilepsy, alcohol is a major trigger for seizures. They may not always occur that same night, it could happen the next day or not at all, but it is important to evaluate if a possible seizure is a risk you are willing to take.
If you are going to be travelling this summer, be sure to get your prescriptions refilled prior to leaving so that you do not run out. Ask your pharmacist for a copy of your prescription in case you should have to fill it at another pharmacy while you are gone. It is also critical that you keep all prescribed medications in their original container with the printed pharmacy label on it if you will be going through airport or land border crossings. It may be easy to forget to take your medications on time in the summer, but be sure you are not slacking off on your schedules – you wouldn’t want to ruin summer fun with a seizure that could have been prevented!
Summer Road Trips
Road trips in the summer are a lot of fun. Some people set off with a plan and others just like to see where they end up. There are many cool places, towns and sites to see in Alberta and across Canada and if you plan to take a road trip, even if you aren’t sure where you’ll end up, keep a few things in mind:
• Take your car for a tune-up and do safety checks before leaving
•Check the oil, brake lights, turn signals and fill up on washer fluid and gasoline!
• Bring lots of food, snacks, and water to drink
• Take breaks! There’s no need to drive for hours on end without stopping to stretch and use the bathroom
• If possible, take turns driving and don’t drive overnight – sleep is important!
• Bring your sunglasses and wear a hat if you have the top down or sunroof open
• Keep a well-stocked emergency kit in your car that includes:
• A first-aid kit
• Warm blankets
• A flashlight and batteries
• Jumper cables
• Tools to change a tire
• A fully charged cell phone
For people who may have photosensitive epilepsy, driving through forests or mountains where the light flickers by quickly and often can be a trigger. Be sure to wear polarized sunglasses and distract yourself with books or magazines. Staring out the window watching things repetitively pass by can be hard on the eyes and on the brain. Be sure if you are taking a long road trip that you are still taking time to stop and get sleep in a proper bed, rather than sleeping in the car.
Getting enough rest is important for everyone however not many of us get as much quality sleep as we need. A lack of good quality sleep is often a seizure trigger for people with epilepsy, and with the long, warm summer nights ahead full of fun and friends keeping us up late, sleep may fall on the backburner. There’s late night BBQ’s, camping trips, road trips and sometimes a lack of air conditioning that doesn’t allow us to get the proper rest we need.
Here are some tips to get a good night’s rest during the summer time:
• Take a cool shower or bath before bed to cool your body temperature
• Wear light, cotton clothing to bed and change out heavy sheets and blankets for cotton or linen sheets
• If possible, sleep on a lower floor or in the basement in your home (hot air rises, cool air sinks)
• Hog the bed – sometimes sleeping with your significant other makes it hard to cool down
• Sleep like a starfish – curling up into a little ball traps in the heat, while spreading out allows air to move around your limbs and cool you down
Sometimes it may not be possible to get a great night’s sleep when it is hot in your home – try to take naps during the day before the house heats up to much. As well, drink lots of water throughout the day as well to help keep your core body temperature down.
We hope you are able to get out there and make the most of your summer – sometimes you can blink and miss it! Preparation and common sense are key to having a safe and fun summer!