The 7 Rules of Summer Safety (Don’t Be Like This Guy)

The 7 Rules of Summer Safety:

This is a fairly comprehensive list of all the various health and safety issues you should be educated about and prepared for during summertime. You don’t have to read and memorize the whole thing right now. We recommend bookmarking it for easy reference any time. And if there are important summer health and safety tips you can add to the list, be sure to comment so everyone can benefit from this post!

1. Know when, how much, and what kind of sunscreen to use.


Between 15 and 60 minutes of daily sunlight exposure is healthy (the time will vary according to your particular susceptibility to sunburn and the intensity of sunlight). Sun exposure is vital for mental health, vitamin D production, and maintenance of bone density.

Beyond a few minutes, however, and you should cover up. We recommend using hats, sunglasses and clothing to protect your skin, but if you’re going to be in a bikini or shorts, know which sunscreen to use!

Many sunscreens only block UVB rays (hello, wrinkles). It’s worth the extra expense to use Mexoryl, which prevents UVA rays (the ones that cause malignant melanoma). Until recently, Mexoryl (Terephythalylidene Dicamphor Sulfonic acid) wasn’t legal in the United States, though the sunblock has long been the go-to choice in Europe. You can now find it in many stores, but it’s also easy to get online, as well.

By the way, many sunscreen makers have come under fire recently for making illegitimate claims about their products that give people a false sense of security. For example, no sunscreen is really “waterproof” and the term “sunblock” is inaccurate.

Sunscreen tips:

– Use enough to fill a shot glass, use at least SPF 15, and reapply every 2 hours. If you apply your initial coat 30 minutes before hitting the beach, it’s O.K. to go as many as 4 hours without reapplying (if you have fair skin, however, you may need to stick to the 2-hour rule).

– Toss out your sunscreen at the end of each summer – effectiveness and quality become compromised after a year in the medicine cabinet.

2. Know CPR and other important first aid procedures.

From bee stings to broken legs to bug bites to choking, here is a comprehensive A-Z guide with simple, practical advice on quickly addressing every possible first aid emergency summer may send your way. The most important tip to prevent common summer ailments: stay hydrated!

water fountain

Piraino Flickr Photo (CC)

A few gems:


Elevate and ice (but not for longer than 20 minutes on a child). Get to a doctor to ensure there hasn’t been a fracture.

– CPR:

In a panicked moment when a loved one appears to have stopped breathing, it’s tempting to start right in on the CPR. Always check for breathing before starting in on CPR!

– Heat Exhaustion vs. Heatstroke:

It’s important to know the difference, especially with children! Keep an eye on your seedlings’ skin and lip tones. If you notice the slightest paling or pallor, take action. Children are particularly vulnerable to sun sickness because they’ll often avoid water and they won’t always tell you if they’re getting hot (that might mean no more playtime).

Heat exhaustion is simple to treat: get some cool beverages into the body and find shade or a cool spot. Heatstroke is much more serious and requires medical attention. Warning signs of heatstroke are delirium, fatigue, irritability and confusion – and a fever.

– Stings:

Use the edge of a credit card to scrape the stinger out of the skin. Don’t pull or pinch the stinger with tweezers or your fingers, because this can squeeze more venom into the skin. If you don’t have sting ointment on hand, a paste of water and baking soda, a smear of mustard from the picnic, or even an ice cube are all helpful in alleviating pain and swelling.

– Nosebleeds:

Do not tilt the head back! Pinch the nose gently and lean forward slightly. The reason most nosebleeds do not stop easily is because we grow impatient with pinching! Give it a minimum of five minutes before you even think about checking! Better yet, go for 10.

– Ticks:

Try gently prying the offending tick loose with tweezers. If the tick is stubborn, don’t force it – this could leave the head inside the skin! Swab the entire tick in vaseline or lotion – the bug will come out within a few minutes. Original gangstas will hold a lit match to its rump – just watch how fast the little sucker moves! But we don’t recommend the OG approach. Wash the area or disinfect it with antibacterial gel and keep an eye on it for a few days to make sure no serious infection develops.

3. Know what to do if you get lost in the woods…and what to do if you meet a bear.

cinnamon black bear

Edith Frost Flickr Photo (CC)

There are 9 important rules for wilderness survival:

– Stick together (companionship and body heat are both essential).

– Do not wander. You’re more likely to be found if you stay put.

– Don’t toss jackets or sweaters because you’re getting warm. Hang on to them, and find leaves to insulate your body and head at night.

– Find a safe, cozy place – but not a hidden place! How will anyone find you?

– Now is the time to be attention-starved. Make an SOS signal, break branches in a wide path, and make use of bright or reflective objects in your possession.

– If a plane flies overhead, lie down and start making “snow angel” motions to have a better chance of gaining the pilot’s attention. If you hear noises, call loudly to them, but don’t run to them!

– If it’s cold, make yourself a “survival bed” for warmth, or find some good, sturdy branches to nestle in. You don’t want to lose body heat by lying on the ground.

– Don’t eat anything unless you know for a fact that the berry, root, or seed in question is safe.

– Don’t drink from any body of water unless you absolutely have to. Go for running streams over still water.

And if you have the misfortune of meeting a bear:

– Hopefully you’ve invested in bear spray. Most of the time, bears will steer clear of you if they have proper warning, so be human – make some noise. Chat, sing, and speak up if you’re hiking and camping in bear country.

– Now, if you’re on a trail and you catch a bear, but the bear hasn’t seen you, by all means don’t startle the thing now! Go back or take a wide detour, preferably downwind. Yield to the bear’s territory.

– If the bear has seen you, but you’ve got a good bit of space, chat calmly and swing your arms so that you can help the bear to know you are a boring old human (they have bad vision, so arm movement helps them figure out what you are). Most of the time, if a bear perceives that you are human and you are not acting in a threatening manner (following its cubs, making aggressive sounds, running), the bear will scoot.

– If the bear sees you and you don’t have much space, do. not. run. ever. Bears – black, grizzly, uphill, downhill – can and will outrun you 100% of the time (even if you’re Mark). Back away calmly, speaking in relaxed tones, and don’t make eye contact. You want to show the bear that you are no threat. Bears think humans are dull, so reinforce this by letting the bear know you are human and remaining calm.

– Don’t bother climbing a tree unless you have the time (and ability) to get at least 30 feet off the ground. Most bears won’t bother with climbing that high, but note: contrary to popular myth, all bears can climb very well.

– If a bear charges you, do. not. run. ever. Bears are big-time bluffers. They’ll often charge to establish dominance and then quickly back off. Continue backing away as calmly as possible.

– If you are attacked: use your spray! Definitely attempt to fight black bears (but note that they are sometimes cinnamon-colored). They are easily scared off if you put up a fight. Grizzlies are not, so you’re far better off playing dead with a grizzly. Grizzlies attack because they are ferociously territorial and accordingly very defensive. Black bear attacks are much more rare, and typically happen because of camp food/garbage addiction (a growing problem) and your genius interference with their cubs.

(Here is more bear information.)

4. Know – and make sure your children know – the rules of water safety.

We all know not to run around the corners of the pool. But make sure you’re familiar with all the smart safety tips. Learn what to do if you’re caught in a riptide (swim parallel to the shore), and make sure your children know proper boating safety (biggest no-no: not being prepared for boat movement!).

5. Know how to properly build, manage, and extinguish a campfire.

Campfire safety is by far one of the most important safety tips for summer. We fear bears and mountain lions, but we’re far more adept at doing ourselves in.

– Build your fire in a clear space free of grasses, weeds and dried materials.

– Keep it small.

– Never leave it unsupervised – a “quick dip” in the nearby stream still leaves plenty of time for a fire to get out of control.

– Keep the seedlings away from the fire, of course.

– Wait for the match to go cold before discarding it!

– Circle your fire with a metal or rock ring.

– Bring a small shovel along on your camping trip. When you put out the fire, put that shovel to work and cover the embers with a few scoops of sand or dirt.

6. Know how to identify poisonous insects and reptiles, and what to do if you’re bitten.

Here’s a helpful guide from a hospital website. The general rule is not to panic – few people die from snake bites in the United States and almost no one dies from spider bites. If you are stung or bitten, get to a doctor within two hours and your chances are more than excellent. For poisonous spider bites (brown recluse and black widow) apply a cool compress and get to the doctor. For reptile bites and ticks, simple cleanse the area – you’re likely going to be fine (but visit the doctor as soon as you can – just in case). For rattlesnake bites, do not, for the love of lettuce, attempt to be Crocodile Dundee and squeeze out the venom! Do not cut, lacerate, squish, ice, squeeze, constrict or otherwise do anything to the bite! The best thing is to stay as still as possible so the venom (if any was released) does not circulate through the bloodstream more rapidly.

7. Know how to identify poisonous plants, and what to do if you’re exposed.

Poison ivy, sumac and oak: know them and avoid them. Here are natural ways to treat them. Quick tip: if you realize you’ve gotten yourself enmeshed in poisonous plants, rinse yourself off with water as soon as you possibly can. Often, the worst of the rash can be prevented by simply rinsing (don’t scrub!) because the plant oils won’t have had time to absorb into the skin.


Poison oak (often turns reddish or brown by summer!)

Poison ivy (look for leaves of three!)

Editor’s tip: if you have the misfortune of stumbling into stinging nettles, look for ferns growing nearby. These two species of plants typically grow together. How’s that for handy niche evolution? Simply rub ferns vigorously into the skin. The stinging won’t completely clear up, but at least you won’t want to gnaw your own hand off!

Further Reading:

You made it this far? Impressive!

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18 thoughts on “The 7 Rules of Summer Safety (Don’t Be Like This Guy)”

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  1. Also, with bears, make sure you store your camp food from a rope hanging from a tree so the bears can’t get to it. Bears love that tang and trail mix, and a bear will tear right through an aluminum canoe to get it.

  2. I see plenty of information to fend off a bear attack. But what if I’m attacked by an Anaconda? Well, here’s the Peace Corp’s official strategy for defense against an anaconda attack:

    1. f you are attacked by an anaconda, do not run. The snake is faster than you are.

    2. Lie flat on the ground. Put your arms tight against your sides, your legs tight together.

    3. Tuck in your chin.

    4. The snake will come and begin to nudge and begin to climb over your body.

    5. Do not panic.

    6. After the snake has examined you, it will begin to swallow you from the feet in, always from the feet in. Permit the snake to swallow your feet and ankles. Do not panic.

    7. The snake will now begin to suck your legs into its body. You must lie perfectly still. This will take a long time.

    8. When the snake reaches your knees, slowly and with as little movement as possible, reach down and take our your knife and very gently slide it between the edge of the snakes mouth and your leg. Then suddenly rip upwards severing the snake’s head.

    9. Be sure to have your knife with you.

    10. Be sure your knife is sharp.

    Remember to not panic.

    1. Careful with misinfo. That info on how to survive an anaconda attack is completely false! Anacondas kill people by coiling around them and constricting them to death, not by swallowing them whole. That’s ridiculous.

  3. If I don’t have my knife, then can I panic?

    Mint toothpaste can attract bears too. Don’t keep gum, snacks, or toothpaste in your tent.

  4. A bear atacked here in TN. at a waterfall last winter. The hiking trail leads to the waterfall. I hike there often and it happened on a Thursday, i’d been there that Sunday before. They did a control fire and think the bear may have lost its cub to attack. There were plenty people around and they attacked the bear With sticks, made noise, and waved their arms, but it didn’t help. The bear killed the 6 year old girl, and put the mom and 2 year old boy in the hospital. Something was just wrong with this bear’s behavior.

    Bradford, i see those signs out here in TN. too at the campgrounds to hang your food on a rope up in the tree to avoid bears at your tent. In Louisiana the problem is alligators.

  5. Alligators? Hmmm…I think I would be perfectly happy camping out in a nice air conditioned hotel room.

  6. Ok, true story time, McFly: My dad and his brothers grew up in Africa. One day they were happily swimming and splashing around in a stream that was a fair ways into the jungle from their house. My grandmother went to fetch them. They could see her on the bank motioning for them to come out of the water. She had an exceptionally stern look on her face and was making very specific motions implying that they stay low and be quiet, but she made no sound. All three of them immediately got out of the water and meekly followed her home. Turns out that there had been a green mamba (lightning fast, terribly deadly snake) dangling from a giant tree overhead, eyeing the boys as a tasty lunch. Grandma talks to this day about the value of always obeying your parents without question because it could save your life! So, to escape a green mamba, don’t make any sudden movements, be quiet, and get away! 😉

  7. Good lesson, though green mamba DOES sound like a Starburst flavor.

    But more deadly than a mamba…
    The creature that kills the most humans per year: Mosquito.

    The mammal that kills the most humans per year: The HIPPO!

    Hungry hungry hippos. Hungry for man flesh.

  8. Hippos are crazy! I saw a documentary, I think on Discovery, about them. One man got jerked from a boat and was bitten in half by a hippo! He miraculously survived but spent a good portion of time inside the hippo’s mouth.

  9. It does sound like a Starburst flavor. Sara, you sure your grandmother wasn’t making that up to reinforce obedience? 😉

  10. “Swab the entire tick in vaseline or lotion – the bug will come out within a few minutes.”

    Unfortunately, this advice has been shown to increase the likelihood of any infective organisms being passed on to the person, or animal, the tick is attached to.

    For detailed advice and guidance on how to correctly remove an attached tick, and how to reduce the likelihood of tick attachment in the first place, BADA-UK offers a wide selection of information and free-to-download leaflets and posters from their website

  11. Craig, thank you so much for improving the information in this post! We appreciate it so much. 🙂

  12. Sorry Mark & McFly, Sara’s Grandma was telling the truth or at least picked a real snake. Friends of mine were missionary kids in Zaire, and they talked green mambas in the trees too. But, in case you don’t believe here is the page at WhoZoo for Green Mambas,
    those suckers can get to be 12′ long…

  13. My pleasure Sarah. Currently there is so much out-dated folk-lore surrounding tick, and how to remove them, it is no wonder there is such confusion. Sadly, there is also a lack of reliable information available from GP’s surgeries or A&E departments, and as result, it is left to organisations like BADA-UK and the Rambler’s Association to raise tick-awareness amongst those who enter the outdoor environment.

    Many will no doubt be familiar with tick, and hopefully take a few simple precautions to reduce the likelihood of attachment. From my own experience though, few will truly appreciate the potential risk they pose to human and animal health.

  14. hi, read your comment about ticks. the tweezer idea is good but i have heard that smothering or attaching fire to there rump actually stresses the tick causing it to “barf up” all the crap they have sucked out of various victums. this goes back into your system, thus the disease they have in their body is now in your system. just an idea. thanks Lenna