Life

Done in the sun

Marilyn Linton. (DAVE ABEL/QMI Agency)

By Marilyn Linton, QMI Agency

(Carl Patzel/QMI Agency)

(Carl Patzel/QMI Agency)

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For Canadians who love the heat, this is the summer you've been waiting for -- days and nights full of higher than normal temperatures, according to a recent report released by AccuWeather Canada. But your summer bliss may be short-lived if too many days are spoiled by bugs, blisters and barbecues gone wrong. So like the Boy Scouts say, be prepared.

Sunny days ahead mean an increased risk of melanoma, a dangerous form of skin cancer that, if untreated, can spread in the body.

"Anyone can get a melanoma," says 51 year-old Heidi Meirovich, who was diagnosed at age 45. "It's not just those people who go to tanning beds. And I never really worshipped the sun."

She credits her doctor for suggesting the removal of a small mole on her upper arm. "I called it my beauty mark," she says. "It was part of me and never documented." But the so-called beauty mark was a potentially fatal skin cancer that was removed just in time. Now, Meirovich covers up in the sun and monitors all the moles and marks on her body through myskincheck.ca, where you can track any changes to skin moles and spots. "Know your body and check it regularly."

Exactly what to look for is clearly described on dermatology.ca, the website organized by the Canadian Dermatology Association. It shows you how to recognize changes to moles and skin spots. Because the sun's ultraviolet radiation promotes skin cancer by damaging the skin cells' DNA and by weakening the body's natural defences against cancer cells, sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 is essential. Great advice on how to keep kids of all ages safe during summer is also posted by the British Columbia's Cancer Agency at bccancer.bc.ca.

The price of more time outdoors means more exposure to mosquitoes, black flies, hornets and ticks. Tips from the makers of Off! bug repellant include avoiding strong fragrances, cutting back on grasses and plants that appeal to bothersome bugs, wearing light-coloured clothing (mosquitoes prefer dark clothes), and removing standing water on your property to discourage mosquito breeding. You can use insect repellents with up to 10% DEET on kids aged 2 to 12, says the Canadian Pediatric Society. For the best way to apply it, check out www.caringforkids.cps.ca.

According to a recent poll by the Canadian Red Cross, Canadians need to brush up on water safety. Fewer than half of all kids know how to swim, yet many homeowners with pools haven't done enough to ensure the enforcement of pool rules or to secure their pools with self-closing and self-latching gates so that children cannot access them.

Fun at the lake includes boating, but tragic drownings do occur. While Canadian law states that boaters must have lifejackets on board (most Canadians do), the Red Cross (redcross.ca) advocates that all boaters actually wear those lifejackets while in a boat or on the water.

Think first before you play. That's the message from thinkfirst.ca, an organization founded by Canadian neurosurgeon Dr. Charles Tator to help kids reduce their risks of injury, particularly head injury. The website has tips on how to choose the right helmet and avoid injuries in everything from skateboarding to cycling.

Backyards can be hard on backs -- especially during gardening. How to minimize strain is the focus of a campaign by the Ontario Chiropractic Association. Their back-saving tips? Kneel to plant and weed; stand with one leg forward and one leg back (scissor-style) when you rake, alternate heavy chores with lighter ones, and pace yourself throughout your gardening day.

If camping is your summer preference, check out Health Canada's camping safety tips at hc-sc.gc.ca; for consumer reviews of the best gear from tents to camp stoves go to canadiantire.ca. Tired of roasting hot dogs over your campfire? Tips on alternative campfire cooking can be found at calgaryschild.com.

As for backyard barbecues, a surprising U.S. report noted increased ER admissions due to people accidentally ingesting bits of wire from barbecue cleaning brushes. The report author, radiologist Dr. David Grand, said he now makes sure he wipes his own grill with paper towels after using a grill brush.

No head-first diving

Noting a sharp increase last summer in the number of people who suffered preventable diving accidents that left them paraplegic or quadriplegic, St. Michael's Hospital neurosurgeon Dr. Michael Cusimano said the accidents are due to people diving head first. Before diving in unfamiliar pools, lakes or rivers, people should check to make sure the water is at least twice the height of the diver and a minimum of nine feet. Know the water and any underlying risks such as rocks or tree trunks, he says. Any first dive should be feet first and alcohol and fun on the water should never be mixed.

A walk in the park

Depression may be helped by a simple nature walk. A study led by Marc Berman of the Baycrest Rotman Research Institute in Toronto noted that participants with clinical depression demonstrated improved memory performance. Nature walks may supplement or enhance existing treatments for depression, he says.

Flipping out

Summer's comfy flip-flops do more harm than good, says the British Columbia Podiatric Medical Association. Limit your pain by choosing sandals with reasonably strong soles and arch support rather than thin, completely flat soles. Wear flip-flops only on the beach or while lounging -- not for any athletic activity or major walking. Never wear them all day long without a break. If heel pain strikes, stop wearing them.

Choosing a lifejacket

Canadian Tire marine and winter recreation manager Yoan Rizelia says the right lifejacket should be Canadian approved, be the right size to support the body and weight of the individual, and allow you to move your arms freely when wearing it. Sizing is based on chest measurement for adults and weight for children.


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