Summer means a chance to play outdoors and find time to relax. But summer doesn’t always mean a vacation from worries. UAB has news you can use to stay safe while enjoying the season – from what to do when that fireworks display doesn’t go as planned to encouraging kids into educational activities while they’re away from school. We’ll have advice from experts on treating common ailments like tick bites, how pregnant women can stay comfortable in the heat and how to know if your child is being bullied online. So put up your hammock and mix up the lemonade – we’ve got news you can use all summer long.
Vitamin D isn’t in the news as much as the popular C, E and A, which can mislead people to assume they’re getting enough.
But Vitamin D isn’t really a vitamin, and the average person is D-deficient, says Suzanne Judd, Ph.D., assistant professor in the University of Alabama at Birmingham Department of Biostatistics. It’s actually a hormone — responsible for calcium balance, which is critical for bone formation. Higher vitamin D levels also are associated with lower blood pressure and act on the pancreas to help regulate insulin production, says Judd, who studies the effects of different forms of vitamin D. And low levels make you more vulnerable to cancers and cardiovascular and infectious diseases.
“Vitamin D has a number of important functions; it helps to absorb calcium from the food we eat and regulate the activity of a number of genes,” says Orlando Gutierrez, M.D., assistant professor of medicine in the UAB Division of Nephrology.
Getting your recommended daily allowance can strengthen your body, and summer is the perfect opportunity to do so.
School’s out and vacation season is under way. That means people are camping, hiking, boating and otherwise spending time in the woods where they just might be meeting up with its usual denizens.
“We’ve seen a few more cases of snakebite than usual in the emergency department this spring, but it’s still a remarkably small number, less than 10,” says Janyce Sanford, M.D., chair of the Department of Emergency Medicine at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. “People have a much greater chance of being stung by a bee or wasp or being bitten by a tick.”
The best way to avoid snakebite is to watch carefully were you put your hands and feet and wear long pants and boots in the woods, Sanford says. If you are bitten, the best remedy is probably in your pocket.
“Car keys are usually the best treatment for snake bite,” says Kimberly Gran, M.D., assistant professor of pediatric emergency medicine at UAB who staffs the emergency room at Children’s of Alabama. “Get the victim to an emergency department as quickly as possible.”
You can put an eye out with one of those. Fireworks, that is. From bottle rockets to M-80’s to sparklers, lighting off fireworks is a really good way of sustaining an eye injury.
According to the Birmingham-based United States Eye Injury Registry, there are an estimated 12,000 fireworks-related injuries treated in U. S. hospital emergency departments annually. As many as 400 Americans suffer permanent vision loss in one or both eyes as a result of injuries caused by fireworks each year.
“Let the professionals put on a show for you, rather than trying to light your own fireworks,” says Doug Witherspoon, M.D., director of the Ocular Trauma Center at the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Callahan Eye Hospital. “Fireworks are dangerous and can be unpredictable. Attending a professional show is a better option than home fireworks.”
The Callahan Eye Hospital became the nation’s first Level 1 Ocular Trauma Center in 2011, as designated by the American Society of Ocular Trauma. But, as Witherspoon points out, it’s not where you want to spend your holiday weekend. If you must use fireworks yourself, Witherspoon says to follow these safety procedures to avoid injury, burns or blindness.
Gardening or just lounging on the deck on hot and humid summer days can be tough to get through but when you like to spend time outdoors exercising or playing sports, it can be especially rough on your body. University of Alabama at Birmingham cardiologist Alan S. Gertler, M.D., has some stay-cool, heart-healthy tips to help you avoid heat-related illnesses and continue to do the outdoor physical activities you love.
What’s Happening to Your Body
“Physiologically, the heat of summer increases stress on the heart, particularly during exercise. Exercise and the air temperature increase core body temperature, and high humidity further complicates the situation because sweat doesn't easily evaporate from your skin. Your body responds by diverting more blood to the skin to cool itself, which results in less blood flow to the muscles and consequently an increase in heart rate.
Know the Signs—and What to Do
“If you experience symptoms of heat-related illness while outdoors, stop what you’re doing and get out of the heat,” Gertler says. “Drink plenty of fluids, either water or a sports drink, and remove extra clothing and wet down your body with cool water, either in the shower or with a cloth. If symptoms don't improve after 30 minutes—or if you exhibit heat stroke symptoms—seek medical attention immediately.”
It’s summer and time for the kids to kick back, relax and give their brains a much-needed break, right?
Experts say that summer is more than just a time for kids to sleep in and laze by the pool; it’s a time to review lessons, build upon academic strengths and tackle any problem areas to avoid learning loss.
“Research shows that students need to continue to learn year round,” says Tonya Perry, Ph.D., assistant professor of curriculum instruction in the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s School of Education and author of Supporting Students in a Time of Core Standards. “Taking a two-month break affects students’ ability to remember concepts and other important information that will be needed.”
Kids who do not engage in educational activities during the summer typically score lower on standardized tests at the end of summer vacation than they did on the same tests taken at the beginning of the summer, according to the National Summer Learning Association.
“We need to revisit the purpose of summer,” Perry says. “We all think of it as time away from the academic school year, but we should also think of it as a time to revisit our interests, work on our challenges and accelerate our learning.”
Here’s how you can do that: