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SUMMER HAZARDS : THE SEASON BRINGS MORE THAN JUST FUN IN THE SUN

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Summer is finally here. Valley residents are barbecuing, rushing to the beach and enjoying seasonal sports.

But along with the benefits of the balmy weather come hazards, some more hidden than others. People are becoming more aware of the harmful effects of the sun’s UV rays. However, skin cancer rates are still on the rise. Since 1973, the rate of melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, has increased by 4% each year according to the American Cancer Society. Also, many people will suffer from heat-induced illness, such as cramps or heatstroke.

A combination of common sense and preparedness may help you avoid the sunshine’s side effects.

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HEAT

Effects:

* Heat cramps: Often in the legs or abdomen, can signal the early stages of more serious heat-related injuries.

* Heat exhaustion: Symptoms are headaches, nausea, dizziness, weakness, fatigue, clamminess and below normal body temperatures.

* Heatstroke: Develops when symptoms of heat exhaustion go untreated. The body, overwhelmed by heat, begins to stop functioning. If not treated immediately, heatstroke can be fatal. Symptoms include a high body temperature; red, dry skin; loss of consciousness; rapid, weak pulse; rapid shallow breathing; and vomiting.

Treatment:

* Heat cramps: Resting in a cool area, drinking cold fluids and massaging the cramped area are often enough to quell the problem.

* Heat exhaustion: Treatment is the same as for heat cramps but should be administered promptly. If allowed to progress, heat exhaustion can lead to mild shock or heatstroke .

* Heatstroke: Treatment includes cooling the body with ice packs on wrists, ankles, armpits and neck; drinking four ounces of water every 15 minutes and minimizing shock. If a victim refuses water, vomits or is unconscious, seek immediate medical attention.

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Prevention:

The Red Cross offers the following tips for coping with the effects of summer heat:

* Slow down and avoid strenuous outdoor activities

* Stay indoors as much as possible

* Wear lightweight, light-colored clothing

* Drink plenty of water

* Eat small meals throughout the day

* Avoid foods high in protein, which increases metabolic heat

* Avoid the use of salt tablets unless told to use by a doctor

* Avoid alcoholic and caffeinated beverages

UV Rays

Effects:

Ultraviolet rays are an invisible form of light that can cause sunburn. Exposure over time can cause skin cancer. Each year there are thousands of deaths nationwide due to melanoma. In 1992, there were 718 melanoma deaths in California, 181 in Los Angeles County.

- Tanning Beds

Tanning beds give off mostly UV-A radiation, which is less likely to cause an immediate burn than UV-B rays. However, UV-A penetrates the skin more deeply and causes it to prematurely age. Researchers at the Brookhaven Laboratory in New York have reported that UV-A is equally important in causing cancer.

Treatment:

* Soak the affected area for 15 minutes in cold water (not ice water) or apply a cold compress.

* Applying aloe vera will cool the burn.

* If you are sunburned all over, consider taking a bath with a cup of dry instant oatmeal scattered in the water. Physicians have also recommended adding vinegar or milk to the water.

* Aspirin or ibuprofen may also help, as well as hydrocortisone creams.

* Second-degree sunburns result in blisters, which might mean a trip to the dermatologist’s office if pain persists for more than a day.

Prevention:

* Stay out of the sun between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m.

* Use a waterproof sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or stronger, and one which protects against both UV-A and UV-B rays.

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* Sunburns received from infancy to teen years can increase the risk of contracting melanoma as an adult.

* Wear a wide-brimmed hat and clothes with a tight weave.

* Temperature has little to do with sun exposure. Ultraviolet radiation is strong on relatively cool days and can penetrate clouds.

* White are more likely to contract skin cancer than blacks.

Sources: California Department of Health Services, American Cancer Society, American Academy of Dermatology, American Red Cross and the Wellness Encyclopedia

Research by STEPHANIE STASSEL and ABIGAIL GOLDMAN / Los Angeles Times

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