In a few weeks, thousands of students from across Tennessee will arrive at spring break destinations, primed for fun and adventure. How those students plan and prepare for these trips may affect their immediate safety and future health.
“One of the biggest concerns for every spring breaker should be protection against skin cancer,” said Tennessee Department of Health Commissioner John Dreyzehner, MD, MPH. “Exposure to ultraviolet rays, whether on a ski slope, sandy beach or tanning bed, puts you at increased risk for melanoma, a skin cancer that is painful and deadly. Just one bad sunburn can cause skin cancer, and the treatment often involves surgery and chemotherapy with varied results in saving lives. We strongly recommend students avoid tanning beds, limit time with skin exposed to UV rays and use proper sunscreen products that protect against both UVA and UVB rays.”
Spring breakers should apply sunscreen liberally and often, and wear sunglasses that provide protection against UVA and UVB rays. Among the most common consequences of not wearing sunglasses regularly are the development of cataracts and damage to retinas.
Some other suggestions from the Tennessee Department of Health for a safer, healthier spring break:
Heat Exhaustion and Heat Stroke -- Heat exhaustion is caused by depletion of body fluids and electrolytes and usually occurs in extreme heat or when a person is unable to adapt to heat. Signs include weakness, nausea, cramps and sometimes loss of consciousness. Heat stroke is a more serious condition that occurs when the body’s core temperature rises to dangerous levels and can damage the brain and other organs. Some signs of heat stroke include short, rapid breathing; confusion; fast pulse; lack of sweating and confusion. These indicate immediate medical treatment is required. Avoid heat exhaustion and heat stroke by limiting time in extreme heat, consuming sufficient quantities of water and avoiding caffeinated drinks, wearing a hat, seeking shade and wearing light-colored clothing.
Medical Records – Make sure your travel companions are aware of any medicines you are required to take and carry information about your medical needs and challenges with you. Include contact information for your personal physician and details about any recent health issues such as surgeries and prescriptions. If you take prescribed medicines with you, bring them in the original container that has the prescription information.
Travel and Recreational Plans – Make sure at least two people know where you plan to be at any given time during your break. Exchange contact information for phoning, emailing, texting and other communication channels and provide updates often.
Food and Drink – Be mindful of who prepares what you eat and drink. Avoid food that may have been improperly prepared or stored and never leave a beverage you intend to drink unattended. If you feel ill or strange after eating or consuming a beverage, ask a trusted friend to stay with you, and if the condition worsens, seek medical help immediately.
Space the Fun – Don’t try to squeeze five days of fun into one. Build in some time to relax between activities so you’ll be at your physical and mental best. You are most likely to be in an accident when you are fatigued. Avoid sleeping in the sun, where you are at increased risk for sunburn and heat-related problems.
Be Alcohol Smart – Be aware that alcohol, even in small amounts, affects you mentally and physically. If you are of legal age and want to drink alcohol, place limits on how much you consume and always have a designated, non-drinking driver among your friends.
Be Aware of Your Surroundings – If the urge to explore is in your veins, let others know where you are going and when you will return. Carry minimal cash and avoid flashy jewelry so you won’t be a crime victim, and travel in groups whenever possible.
TN Health Department