Sunbathing, swimming, barbequing and outdoor sports are all part of summertime fun. However, without the right precautions these leisure activities can be major hazards and lead to skin cancer, heat stroke, food poisoning, dehydration and drowning. ChicagoHealers.com Practitioner Sharon M. Weinstein, RN, MS, CRNI, FACW, FAAN provides prevention tips to the following summer health hazards:
Health Hazzard #1: Skin Cancer
This is the most common form of cancer in the United States- one in five Americans will develop skin cancer in the course of a lifetime. Due to the increased amount of time people spend outside during the summer months, overexposure to the sun’s rays can lead to skin cancer.
People Who Have a Higher Risk for Skin Cancer
- Have spent a long amount of time in the sun or have been sunburned
- Have fair skin, hair and eyes
- Have a family member who has had skin cancer
- Are over the age 50
Preventing Skin Cancer
- Use sunscreen: Choose a sunscreen that uses at least SPF 15.
- Wear protective clothing: Wear clothing and hats to protect your skin from harmful rays.
- Avoid Direct Sun: Between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. is when the sun’s rays are strongest. Avoid prolonged sun exposure during this time.
Health Hazard #2: Heat Stroke
This form of hyperthermia occurs when the body cannot rid itself of heat. Heat stroke is caused by extreme heat, high humidity or vigorous activity in the sun.
Symptoms of Heat Stroke
- Disorientation or confusion
- Hot, dry skin that is flushed but not sweaty
- Fatigue and headache
- Rapid heart beat
Preventing Heat Stroke
- Drink Fluids: Hydrate your body with water frequently when participating in outside activities. Avoid coffee, soda, tea and alcohol; these can actually cause dehydration.
- Plan for the Day: Schedule outside activities before or after the hottest times of the day (between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.).
- Dress Appropriately: Wear light weight, loose fitting clothing.
Health Hazard#3: Food Poisoning
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates there are about 76 million cases of food poisoning each year. Due to the use of grills and coolers, and food being left out in the sun, food poisoning increases drastically during the summer months.
Symptoms of Food Poisoning
- Nausea and vomiting
- Low grade fever
- Diarrhea and abdominal cramping
Preventing Food Poisoning
- Smart Shopping: Look at expiration dates while shopping, and get your frozen section items last before heading home. Look for supermarkets that have clean deli sections and that keep food at the correct temperature.
- Washing: Even produce you peel needs to be washed before consumption. Don’t forget to also wash your hands, countertops, knives and cutting boards for each food item.
- Temperature: Bacteria multiply the fastest between 40 and 140 degrees. Make sure that you cook meat thoroughly and keep foods needing refrigeration cold. Make sure to also reheat leftovers to at least 165 degrees before eating.
Health Hazard #4: Dehydration
Your body’s weight being 75 percent water, it is extremely important to replenish your body frequently. Dehydration is when the amount of water leaving the body is greater than the amount going in it.
Causes of Dehydration
- Drink Water: Because your body releases so much water, (through sweating, bowel movements, and breathing) you need to rehydrate it with water often. A good rule of thumb is to drink one ounce of water for every two pounds of your body weight each day.
- Avoid Heat: Again, planning outdoor activities before or after the hottest part of the day will lower your chances of dehydration. Also, remember to take advantage of shaded areas which can be up to 10 degrees cooler than areas in the direct sun.
Health Hazard #5: Drowning
Each year more than 3,000 people die from drowning, and nearly 20 percent of child drowning deaths take place at a public pool where a trained lifeguard was on the scene. With summertime fun, remember safety when it comes to water activities.
Water Safety Tips
- Put a fence around all pools and spas.
- Always wear life jackets, especially in open water areas.
- Do not let yourself or children swim alone.
- Take CPR and life saving classes.
Photo by sxc/rameckers