Fourth of July festivities are over but there’s plenty of time for barbecues, festivals and weekend getaways before the fall semester begins. If you’re living in a college dorm to take summer classes or you’re sharing an apartment with a few roommates—or even if you’re still at home with your parents—there’s a good chance you’ll wind up planning or attending at least a few more celebrations this summer.
Staying safe at parties at school or in your own home and paying attention to your health are big concerns at all times of year, but here are seven things to try to remember during the warmer months:
The days may be longer during the summer, but the nights can be just as dangerous. Physical fitness is important, but get your jogging or walking out of the way during daylight hours if at all possible. If you must walk somewhere after sunset because you need to get from Point A to Point B and you don’t have a car, try to take a friend or family member with you. An attacker or thief is less likely to assault someone who is with another person. If you absolutely have to walk someplace by yourself, move quickly and stay alert. Pay attention to your surroundings and make it clear that you know exactly where you’re going. Don’t walk while you are digging through your purse or texting.
A bronze glow is desirable to many of us, but baking beside the pool without proper skin protection can lead to bigger problems than a pesky sunburn. The Centers for Disease Control report that skin cancer is the most common type of cancer diagnosed in the United States. So what, you say? Look at it this way—according to the Skin Cancer Foundation, there are more new cases of skin cancer each year than cases of breast, prostate, lung, and colon cancer combined. Apply sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 several times throughout the day—even if it’s cloudy outside and even if you’re in and out rather than outdoors continuously. You are not as invincible as you think you are, and your skin will thank you.
When your body loses more fluids than it takes in, you can become dehydrated and possibly experience heat stroke or other heat-related emergencies. Symptoms of mild dehydration usually include thirst and dry mouth, but the condition can become serious quickly and lead to fever, confusion, seizures, breathing complications, and more. So in addition to wearing your sunscreen, drink plenty of water or sports drinks throughout the day. Limit your soda intake, though—caffeine in large quantities has a diuretic effect, which means it can cause you to lose even more fluids.
Water shouldn’t be the only beverage you’re concerned about. If you drink, pay attention to your alcohol consumption, especially if you’re outdoors in the heat. Experts advise against drinking alcohol in the hot sun. Not only is alcohol a diuretic that can lead to dehydration, it can lead to poor decision making, which can put you into dangerous situations you wouldn’t otherwise be in. Yes, alcohol can make you lose your inhibitions and open up around others, which may help you get out of your shell, but it can also lead to problems like dehydration (see above) and heat stroke.
You’re not in preschool anymore, but the buddy system comes in handy when you’re swimming, surfing, or doing other water sports at any age. Even if you’re the greatest college swimmer on your school team or think you have the skills of a professional athlete, you never know when something bad could happen to you or a friend. Statistics show that drowning is the second leading cause of accidental death of people between five and 24 years old, so know your limits to avoid potentially dangerous situations as best as possible. (If you think the deep end of the pool is too deep for you, don’t go in.) Stay out of the water if the weather turns bad and don’t swim if you’ve been drinking!
Even though we’ve recommended walking and swimming with a friend, be wary if someone you barely know offers to walk you home or wants to get away from a large group of friends for a little privacy. Suggest a group date if you’re going out with someone new or at the very least, make sure you meet in a well-lit public spot with many other patrons.
If the majority of your hall mates or neighbors have gone home for the summer and you figure no one is around to come in, or you’re just afraid of accidentally locking yourself out of your room or apartment, resist the urge to leave your door unlocked. People can sneak into dorm buildings and gated apartment complexes even without the proper ID or security codes.
Taking precautionary measures like those listed above and always thinking twice before doing something may help your safety and your health this summer and the rest of the year.
Melissa Rhone earned her Bachelor of Music in Education from the University of Tampa. She resides in the Tampa Bay area and enjoys writing about college, pop culture, and epilepsy awareness.
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