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REF NO.: 372

SUBJECT: Memorial profs preach summer safety — young and old should follow common-sense rules

DATE: July 28

The five accidental drownings across Canada last weekend clearly underline the fact that summer can be a hazardous time. According to the Canadian Red Cross, 600 Canadians drown each year; more than 80 per cent of these victims are men — typically between the ages of 15 and 44. In almost every case, however, the accidents could have been prevented.

Two well-known Memorial University professors — and avid outdoor enthusiasts — are also encouraging people to keep safety in mind this summer in order to prevent serious injuries or death.

Dr. T.A. Loeffler, associate professor, Human Kinetics and Recreation in St. John’s and Keith Nichol, associate professor, Environmental Studies and Geography at Sir Wilfred Grenfell College in Corner Brook, have offered some common-sense safety tips that can prevent injuries or hospitalization.

“First of all, you have to remember that the weather in Newfoundlandand Labradoris highly variable so you should always be prepared for a change in the weather,” said Dr. Loeffler, a hiker and kayaker. “It can be really easy to set out on a summer’s day with just a cotton shirt on and have the weather change and the temperatures dip. So hypothermia can set in.”

Dr. Loeffler said summer hikers, bikers and adventurers should always carry extra clothing on longer trips. They should also carry rain protection, flashlights, matches or something to start a fire, along with food and water.

“Learn your map and compass skills, too,” added Mr. Nicol, a recognized outdoor enthusiast on the province’s west coast. “Take a GPS (Global Positioning System) and learn how to use it before you go out. This applies especially to going off the beaten track.” Each year hundreds of tourists and locals explore this province’s dense forests, hiking, biking and camping in remote areas. In addition to navigation skills, Mr. Nicol said they should be aware of dangers such as nature predators. “Put food in trees at night as a precaution against bears. As well, bring a first-aid kit and know how to treat basic injuries.”

Mr. Nicol said during the summer adventurers will likely try new sports, such as kayaking. He said first-time kayakers should contact reputable boat tours before trying the sport by themselves. They should also know their limits and any dangers when on the water, he said. “Know how to navigate and don’t paddle beyond your skill level. Learn how local winds may change through the day and ensure that you have alternate escape routes should the weather change,” said Mr. Nicol. “As well, dress for water temperatures not the air temperatures.” He also suggested carrying a first-aid kit and basic survival gear should be taken on all trips, as well as a radio or cell phone.

Another safety precaution is ensuring people are not exposed to harmful exposure to the sun. This summer, temperatures in some parts of Newfoundland and Labrador have soared to 35 Celsius. According to the Canada Safety Council, sunburn, skin cancer, skin aging and cataracts are all blamed on over-exposure to UV (Ultra-Violet) rays. There are a reported 75,000 new cases of skin cancer each year in Canada. The Council says that avoiding sun damage could prevent 60-70 per cent of these incidences.

“We all have to be sun smart,” said Dr. Loeffler. “That includes young and old.” She said people should minimize sun exposure and try to schedule outdoor activities when UV rays are at their weakest — before 11 a.m. and after 4 p.m. Children under the age of one should also be kept out of the sun. “It’s important to protect our skin using a proper grade sun screen,” said Dr. Loeffler. “SPF30 is great. It gives you that little bit of extra protection. You also want to pre-apply about 30 minutes before going out into the sun and then reapply after activities such as swimming and then at least every two hours.” Dr. Loeffler said that it doesn’t need to be sunny for skin to burn. “So don’t be fooled by cloudy and overcast weather.” Other sun protection tips: seek natural shade; wear a wide-brim hat and protective sunglasses and drink lots of water to avoid dehydration.

“It’s also to remember to eat, too,” added Dr. Loeffler. “If you only drink water you could set yourself up for something called hyponatremia or over-hydration.” She said that drinking an excessive amount of water can also lead to sickness. Dr. Loeffler said classic symptoms of hyponatremia include fatigue, confusion, nausea, bloating or swelling and headaches.

Warmer summer temperatures also mean more people are likely taking part in physical activities, such as biking, skateboarding and rollerblading. Mr. Nicol said they should ensure they wear proper helmets, which have been certified by the Canadian Standards Association. “I have seen many accidents where helmets have saved the day,” he said. “Make sure it fits and is snug.” Helmets should be worn straight on the head, covering the forehead, with the chin strap comfortable, yet secure with no slack. People should also replace their helmets if they’ve been in a crash, as helmets are designed to crush on impact and are not re-usable after an accident.

Following these simple few tips will help prevent injuries, sickness or even causalities, said Dr. Loeffler. “It’s important to remember and recognize that we have to be thinking about safety in the first place,” she said. “Sometimes I think people take their cell phone instead of their common sense. Remembering these points will make a difference during the summer and either save lives or ensure people are not injured or get sick.”

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For further information, please contact Jeff Green, communications co-ordinator, (University Relations), Memorial University of Newfoundland, (709)737-2142 or


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