Avoid these 7 summer health hazards

Avoid these 7 summer health hazards

It’s summer and that means the living is easy and the days are long.  But despite the sunshine, warmth, and fun times, summer is also a season of many health maladies. Here are seven health woes that are more likely to happen in the months of summer than at other times of the year:

1.      Food poisoning


During the summer months, beware of food poisoning. The United States Department of Agriculture estimates that foodborne illnesses are two times more common in the hot, humid summer days than in other months. Blame it on the heat and humidity as bacteria thrive and grow their fastest in these conditions.  According to the CDC, 76 million people become ill due to food poisoning each year. It can be devastating for elderly people or infants and young children.  Food poisoning can result in loss of water volume and electrolytes due to diarrhea or vomiting, dehydration, as well as kidney, heart and muscle problems.

The best way to avoid being a victim of food poisoning is to keep perishable foods refrigerated or kept cold in a cooler with ice.  Food left out of refrigeration for more than two hours may not be safe to eat. In temperatures higher than 90 degrees Fahrenheit, food should not be left out for more than one hour.

2.      Asthma attacks

Adults and children with asthma need to be more vigilant in protecting themselves from asthma attacks. Spikes in asthma during summer are often due to more smog and air pollution, high pollen levels, and increased mold growth due to high humidity.

Anyone prone to asthma attacks should continue taking their daily controller medications during summer and pay attention to pollen and air pollution levels. When levels are high, it is best to stay indoors in air conditioning if possible.

3.      Hyperthermia

Hyperthermia covers a range of heat-related illnesses from heat exhaustion to heat stroke.  This condition is when the body overheats usually due to high temperatures and humidity but also from dehydration. Older adults are most susceptible to developing hyperthermia since the ability to dissipate heat reduces with age.

Other factors hindering a person’ ability to cool down include medical conditions such as heart disease, poor circulation and obesity. Certain medications such as those for high blood pressure, heart disease and depression can diminish an older person’s ability to respond to heat.

Early signs of heat exhaustion include heavy sweating, weakness, dizziness, or nausea.  Anyone experiencing these symptoms needs to seek medical treatment right away.

When summer heats up, help prevent heat-related illnesses by doing the following:

·      Avoid exerting yourself outdoors during the hottest time of the day.

·      Seek air-conditioning on hot days

·      Drink at least eight to nine cups of water a day

·      Wear lightweight clothing keeping you cool 

4.      Bug bites
Insects like mosquitoes, chiggers, ticks, and spiders like the hot weather just as much as we do. But if you get bitten by one of these insects, you can be prone to many diseases and infections. Mosquito are the culprits behind West Nile virus and yellow fever, while ticks cause Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever. Always make sure you are covered with long sleeves and pants, and liberally apply insect repellent.

5.      Recreational water illnesses

Water used for recreational purposes-- think pools, hot tubs, and lakes-- can harbor harmful bacteria that can lead to infection. Make sure to keep your ears out of the water any way you can, as this bacteria can cause swimmers ear which is a painful inner ear infection.

 Swimmer’s ear leads to an estimated 2.5 million doctor’s visits each year. To prevent water from getting stuck in the ear canal, dry your ears thoroughly after swimming or showering. To do this, use a towel, tilt your head so one ear faces down to allow water to escape the ear canal. Then gently pull the ear lobe in several directions to help the water drain out. If the water is still stuck, use a hair dryer to remove it but keep the dryer on the lowest heat setting and hold it several inches away from your head.

6.      Sunburn

With summer comes the danger of sunburn, which can be extremely serious. Sunburns are considered to be a first-degree burn and are caused by ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun that damages your skin cells. The risk of damage depends on the time of day, the amount of time spent in the sun and if you use sunscreen or not. It is best to avoid being in the sun between the hours of 10 am to 4 pm, keep time spent outdoors to a minimum and always apply sunscreen all exposed areas of your body with an SPF of at least 30 or higher. Also wear long-sleeved shirts and wide-brimmed hats.

To treat severe sunburn, do the following:

·      Soak the burn in cool water for a few minutes or put a cool, wet cloth on it.

·      Take an over-the-counter pain reliever, such as acetaminophen.

·      Treat itching with an OTC antihistamine cream or a spray such as Benadryl which helps block the inflammatory reaction.

·      Apply an antibiotic ointment or an aloe cream with emollients that soften and soothe the skin directly to the burned area.

7.     Mower injuries

The sight of a pristine, neatly mowed yard is a sight to behold. But, be careful of mower injures. Every year, emergency rooms see plenty of mower-related injuries due to toes, hands, and fingers getting caught in blades or things like rocks and sticks getting flung out of them.

To prevent mower accidents, practice the following tips:

·      Wear closed-toe shoes, preferable with a steel toe. Also wear goggles or sunglasses, gloves, and long pants to protect yourself from flying debris.

·      Keep kids away from the push mower and off of the riding mower.

·      Get a profession to service your lawn mower or learn how to do it properly. Always disconnect the spark plug to prevent it from accidentally starting. Turning a push mower’s blade manually can ignite the engine.