Labor Day weekend is just around the corner, and many people are looking forward to enjoying this last holiday weekend of the summer.

“Labor Day weekend is a great time to enjoy some fun and relaxation,” said Long Nguyen, DO, family medicine physician at ThedaCare Physicians-Wautoma. “With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, it’s important to stay mentally healthy as well as physically healthy. Seeing family and friends is good for our mental health, but it’s important to do so safely.”

He offers these health safety guidelines:

  • Wear a mask.
  • Practice social distancing, remaining at least six feet away from anyone not living in your household.
  • Avoid unnecessary physical touching such as hugs, handshakes and high fives.
  • Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, or use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60-percent alcohol.
  • Clean and disinfect common surfaces such as doorknobs and light switches regularly.
  • Avoid people who are sick.
  • Stay away from others if you are sick.

Dr. Nguyen recommends limiting social interactions to family and friends with whom you’ve already had close contact, ideally in your direct household, and holding as many activities as possible outside.

“There is a decreased risk of transmission of COVID-19 when you are outside, even then, masks should be worn when possible,” he said. “Masks decrease the risk of transmission of the virus, which is present in the air in droplets from our breathing, laughing, sneezing and coughing.”

Dr. Nguyen noted that homemade cloth masks or surgical masks that fit snugly over the nose, mouth, chin and both sides of the face are acceptable for general use.

“Based on guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), homemade cloth masks are adequate for most people,” he said. “You want to limit the air coming out of your mask to avoid the escape of virus particles from you and also limit the number of particles coming into your mask from others.”

He added that it’s important to wash the cloth masks in warm, soapy water after each use and discard surgical masks after each use.

“It’s important to keep the mask clean at all times to get rid of any particles that may have landed on it,” he explained. “And, it’s important to avoid touching the front of the mask when taking it off. We recommend removing the mask by using the ear loops and then folding the mask in on itself so you are only touching the side you breathed into and not the front of the mask.”

Beyond protecting oneself, family and friends from COVID-19, Dr. Nguyen recommends practicing general outdoor summer safety habits over the holiday weekend and the rest of the summer:

  • Wear sunscreen, a hat and sunglasses to protect skin and eyes from UV damage.
  • Drink plenty of water.
  • Be aware of the symptoms of heat exhaustion and heat stroke – high body temperature, headache, dizziness, nausea, hot or red skin, confusion or loss of consciousness.
  • Practice water safety – wear lifejackets in boats, canoes and kayaks; make sure children are supervised when near or swimming in lakes or a pool.
  • Wear helmets when biking, skateboarding, etc.
  • Monitor children around hot grills and campfires.
  • Wear bug repellent to avoid mosquito bites and ticks. Be aware of bee and wasp activity.

“This upcoming holiday weekend is a great time to take a break from day-to-day living and enjoy some different outdoor experiences,” said Dr. Nguyen. “That’s great for our physical and mental health. Yet, it’s important to remember COVID-19 is still very active in our area, and it doesn’t matter where you live, your background or your income level; it’s hitting everyone. Follow the recommended health safety guidelines and be aware of what you could be bringing around to other people.”