As fun as outdoor barbecues, boat rides, fireworks, and frolicking about in nature sounds, be forewarned: summertime brings with it a host of dangers than cause some of the season's most common health problems.
Don't fall for the myth that you get less sick in the summer. In addition to year-round health issues, summer has its seasonal palette of health issues, too. From lawn mower and fireworks accidents to food poisoning and bug bites, summertime can hurt.
Let's take a closer look at seven common summer ailments.
1. Food poisoning
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that every year, 48 million people get sick from a foodborne illness, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die. Researchers have identified over 250 foodborne diseases, most caused by infections from bacteria, viruses, and parasites. Harmful toxins and chemicals also contaminate food.
Although anyone can get food poisoning at any time, there's an often an uptick in the summer. Why? Warmer temperatures and the desire to eat outside fuel a growth of bacteria. Who hasn't prepared food in advance and let it sit in too-warm temperatures before serving?
Food needs to be handled hygienically, with ample refrigeration. Tread carefully at those late-night summer potlucks and don't eat anything that looks like it's been out for awhile.
While most symptoms just need to run their course, if you're not feeling better within a day or two, get yourself to a doctor quickly. Make sure you drink plenty of fluids to stay hydrated, too (see #3).
2. Mower injuries
Most homeowners take great care in getting their summer lawns in shape. This means using tools like lawnmowers and weedwhackers. Doctors frequently see and treat the fallout from using these tools: toes, hands, and fingers caught in blades.
The biggest problem? Spinning blades and lines cause deep, painful lacerations and often add a hefty dose of dirt and grime to the injured skin, making the risk of infection higher.
Experts recommend taking lawnmowers and other lawn tools with spinning parts to reputable service centers to fix them and warn against doing it at home.
Among the most serious and common summer ailments, dehydration is a lack of sufficient water in the body. Symptoms include dry throat, lethargy, headaches, muscle soreness, dry skin, and yellow urine. It can lead to severe health issues if not treated properly.
The only way to keep it under control? Drink plenty of fluids, preferably clear ones. Water is best. Avoid soft drinks and sugary juices, as they can make you thirstier.
4. Summer flu
Viral infections are common year round. Summer flu feels especially bad if gastric discomfort accompanies it. Common symptoms include fever, cold, stuffy nose, cough, sore throat, itchy eyes, and stomach pain.
It usually resolves on its own, but it can be especially uncomfortable if the weather outside is hot, too.
Prevention? Strong self-care, including hand-washing, proper hygiene, hydration, and eating.
5. Boating accidents
While boats can be great fun, they can also be dangerous. They're a leading cause of accidents during the summer, too.
The biggest complication? Alcohol. That's right: drunken boating. It's more common than you think, and it has some of the same problems associated with drunk driving. People fall out, drown, and get hit by booms and propellers.
Being out all day in salt water doesn't help, either. It only exacerbates another common problem: dehydration. See #3.
Tread carefully in those boats.
6. Firework injuries
The boom, pop, snap, and sizzle of fireworks is irresistible. So irresistible in fact, that every year across the world, people suffer serious injuries, and even death.
Earlier in July, a fireworks explosion killed 24 people and injured 49 near Mexico City. In the US every year around the Fourth of July, people are injured or killed in backyard fireworks displays.
The key to prevention? Understand that fireworks aren't toys. They're explosives. If you're going to use them, keep a fire extinguisher around at all times, and keep children away.
Among the most common burns are on hands and eyes.
7. Insect stings
Working in the garden, going for a hike, ambling about on a beautiful summer day? Fantastic.
Beware the bugs though. While pollinators are necessary for a healthy ecosystem, if you disturb them, you run the risk of stings. And if you're allergic, you could be setting yourself up for disaster.
How can you prevent stings? Cover up as best you can. If you know you're allergic, carry epinephrine and benadryl. Even if you're not allergic, you should carry benadryl with you in the even that you do get stung.
If you don't know if you're allergic? Get yourself to a doctor with any of these symptoms: hives, itchiness, and swelling over large parts of your body, trouble breathing, swelling of your tongue or face, or extreme dizziness or nausea.
Learn more about becoming a physician.
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