Unless you’re one of those crazy people who like Winter, the best time of the year is upon us! Summertime and the living’s easy, as the song goes. But, maybe not too easy. In all the excitement, sometimes we lower our guards. We do some things that might not be in our best interests.
The good news is that all of these accidents and ailments are preventable and all are treatable even if you forget. Avoid these 6 major health hazards of Summer:
It’s Getting Hot In Here
By far the most common problem people encounter is dehydration and the risk for heat stroke. Americans as a whole simply don’t drink enough water regardless of the time of year. Dehydration happens when you don’t replenish the fluids quickly enough. In the Summer, we’re usually more active. We’re certainly outdoors more often. It’s easy to get caught up in a fun activity and not realize you haven’t drank enough water. Do you know how much water you should drink a day, regardless of the season? 8 glasses. Now, granted, we get some of that water in the food we eat too, but guessing that you don’t regularly check to make sure you’ve gotten your daily allowance.
Regardless of the amount of water you drink, be careful how long you stay outside in the heat. Heat stroke happens when a person stays in hot conditions without taking the time to cool off from time to time. This is one of the reasons it’s so dangerous to leave your child or pet in a hot car, even if you’re just going to be a “couple of minutes” shopping for one thing.
Heat stroke is when our body’s natural cooling systems become overwhelmed by the heat and don’t function as effectively anymore. This is also one way we get dehydrated. We sweat out fluid and don’t replace it fast enough.
There are warning signs to heat stroke that you should be aware of. It starts with headaches, then evolves into dizziness and a general sense of weakness. If you let it go from there, you could pass out. Things get really dire if heat stroke isn’t treated after this. Next is organ failure and then, eventually, death. Those last two will really put a crimp in your Summer, so remember to drink enough water, okay?
That’s No Boating Accident
Actually, it’s exactly a boating accident. Unlike car safety, boat safety is too often considered optional or no fun. Even if you grew up around boats your whole life, that doesn’t mean you won’t encounter that one recreational guy that doesn’t know what he’s doing. In the Summer of 2017, there were 2,629 boating accidents. That includes 658 deaths.
The law just requires the presence of life preservers. But they can be bulky and awkward and seen to be interfering with the fun, so people tend to take them off. Maybe, just maybe, if those same people remained vigilant, it wouldn’t be a problem. But add in a little alcohol and suddenly, there’s a recipe for potential disaster.
That’s the other major problem with boats in the Summer. Everyone knows not to drink and drive a car. The same is not usually true for people driving boats. While the likelihood of collision in a boat isn’t as big, there’s also usually no hidden dangers under a street. Water can hide potential obstacles from view. Hitting a reef or sandbar can knock a person into the water.
According to the American Boating Association, 31% of boating fatalities happened as a result of alcohol use. Just like with cars, designate a driver to stay sober.
How Long Has That Food Been In The Sun?
Refrigeration doesn’t work too well on the beach, takes a really long extension cord. That’s why we invented coolers. The problem is that we rely on those coolers the same way we would a fridge. But they’re not the same. Coolers rely on ice to work. Ice melts. The longer the time spent outdoors, the more likely ice will melt beyond the point where it can safely keep some foods cool.
A little under a third of a million people end up in a hospital with food poisoning every summer. Be careful when planning picnic meals that include dairy, mayo, eggs or meat in them. They will go bad faster than most people suspect. The first three are harder to tell on sight, but meat will brown a bit as it goes bad. If it doesn’t look safe or smell safe, don’t risk it.
There are four recommended ways to avoid eating spoiled food or letting food get spoiled. 1. Clean your hands and whatever surfaces you plan on using while preparing and cooking the food. Ocean water is not recommended for this cleaning! Use a stream or faucet, preferably after applying soap. 2. When packing food for summer travel, separate meat from the other foods to avoid cross contamination. 3. Make sure you cook the food long enough. We get impatient waiting around a grill, but what might look like a well cooked burger or piece of chicken, might not be. Use a food thermometer to make sure steaks are at a minimum of 145 degrees inside, burgers & pork need to be 160 degrees inside at a minimum and chicken needs to be at least 165 degrees inside.
When Good Tans Go Bad!
Some people just can’t tan. They go from pale skin to sunburn with no stopping in between. Because burns heal on their own over the course of a couple of days, people don’t always consider them to be a health threat. And maybe if you count the amount of those burns on one hand, you could be right.
It is far better to not let your skin burn than it is to get a sunburn. The good news is these kinds of burns are imminently preventable. Quality application of an appropriate level of SPF suntan lotion helps. Avoiding going outdoors door peak hours where the sun is high in the sky will also cut down on the likelihood of burning. These are early morning hours and late afternoon hours. Just because the sun is setting and doesn’t seem as hot doesn’t mean you aren’t tanning/burning your skin. We get in our heads that only during peak hours can we really sunbathe appropriately, but your skin soaks it up regardless of the clock as long as the sun is in the sky. The strength of UV rays off peak hours is less, so the chance of a sunburn is also decreased, but not impossible.
If you have to go out during the heart of the afternoon, wear sunscreen (even if not going to sunbathe) and wear protective clothing like a good hat with a brim. Try to stay in the shade as much as possible.
Don’t Go In The Water!
Well, that’s just crazy. Absolutely, go in the water. BUT beware the dangers therein and take proper precautions. We don’t just mean wear a life-preserver. Rivers and ponds and lakes are a part of a living biosphere. Sadly, one that can be polluted easily. Waterborne bacteria and illnesses can easily spoil your Summer fun. Don’t drink the water. And if you accidentally swallow some, keep on the watch for gastrointestinal problems. But you don’t have to ingest the water to be in danger of getting sick. Beware of skin infections, eye infections and ear infections too. If you want to increase your odds of avoiding these problems, stick to pools. The chlorine may sting your eyes, but it kills the things that can really ruin a summer day(s).
Ow! That Stings!
Part of living outside means sharing that space with other creatures great and small. The hills are alive with more than just the sound of music. When the weather warms up, that’s a sign for most bugs to come out of hibernation. It’s not just the return of mosquito season.
Bees start to get active again too. If you’re out camping, check the surrounding areas for hives. Just because bees aren’t out when you arrive, doesn’t mean they aren’t there. Three adults out of every one hundred are allergic to bee stings. The wrong way to find out if you’re one of those people is to have an allergic reaction after getting stung. Obviously, we recommend getting tested before taking such a trip by ordering an allergy test. Regardless, bring an EpiPen with you, just in case!
Other ways you can protect yourself from getting bit or stung is to avoid wearing floral patterned clothing. Let’s not help bumble bees think they’ve found a flower in you when they haven’t. But if you do wear a pattern, make sure it’s light in color. Bugs and bees are attracted to darker colors. Avoid using floral based cologne or perfume. And be careful of sugary drinks. Actually, be careful of those in general, they’re rarely good for you!
If despite all these precautions, you do get stung. Don’t just rely on the epinephrine auto-injector. This is just a stop-gap measure for allergies that buy time for you to get to a proper emergency room and get seen by a medical professional. It’s not the cure in and of itself.
If you don’t have an allergic reaction to the bite, it can still hurt and itch. Apply ice to help with the swelling. Take a regular, over the counter antihistamine too!
That said, if you see the following start to happen, get medical attention right away:
- Hives, itchiness, and swelling over large areas of your body
- Tightness in chest or trouble breathing
- Swelling of the tongue or face
- Dizziness or feeling you will pass out
All of these are signs of something more serious, like an allergic reaction. Don’t fool around with these because the next step can be the closing of an airway and choking. Better to be safe than sorry.
Flip Flops Are Not Just A Fashion Don’t
It’s not just for the obvious reason of having exposed toes either. Sure, you are in danger of banging or dropping something heavy on your foot and not being protected properly. But that’s not the big reason why flip flops are not a good idea. It’s actually how we walk in them.
The way their made, we have to kind of grip them with our toes to keep them from falling off. Usually, this isn’t the normal way we walk, so our bodies are not used to this repetitive motion. Because we’re not used to it, walking differently can lead to other medical problems. Our legs, knees, hips and backs can become out of whack, putting stresses on them that normally aren’t there. With enough stress, something will break or at least get injured. Now, you’re looking at tendinitis, plantar fasciitis, heel pain and other musculoskeletal problems.
So, while it is at least some protection from stepping on something sharp with a bare foot, you might want to reconsider this choice of footwear or at least avoid the really cheap versions and get a pair designed to combat the problems listed above.
In addition to these six plus one tips to help you have a healthier summer, get a snapshot of your overall wellness before traveling on vacation or taking time off. We know your time is valuable, especially your downtime, your “you” time. Don’t spend it being sick when you could avoid that with a simple Wellness Panel from Walk-in Lab. Get your test done today and remove any possible stress coming from that arena, so you can relax in the knowledge that you’ve done everything you can to ward off trouble from disturbing your rest. If you hurry, you might still be able to take advantage of our monthly discount.
Have a great Summer!