Common Summer Health Hazards

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Warmer weather can be a nice break from all the rain we’re used to getting in Vancouver, but there are also certain hazards that come along with the summer and heat. Find out what some of those are below, along with what precautions you should take to protect yourself.

Staying hydrated is important. Not just during the summer months, but all the time. Drinking water not only keeps you hydrated and helps regulate body temperature, but it also increases energy levels and helps with muscle performance. Unfortunately, summer is a season where it’s not uncommon for physicians to see patients presenting with symptoms of dehydration – usually due to a combination of staying in the heat for prolonged periods of time while not drinking enough water. Symptoms of dehydration include fatigue, dizziness, confusion, nausea, dry mouth, irritability, and extreme thirst. Seniors and children are much more susceptible to becoming dehydrated, so make sure you have plenty of water on hand.

An estimated 80,000 cases of skin cancer are diagnosed in Canada each year, and your risk of developing skin cancer doubles if you’ve had just 5 sunburns. While it might sound hard to believe, it’s true. This is one of the many reasons why physicians warn about the dangers of ultraviolet rays – whether it’s from direct sunlight or the use of tanning beds. If you’re going to be outdoors, you need to take precautions to protect your skin. I recommend wearing an SPF 30, as it will block at least 97% of UVB radiation. In addition, you should also wear a wide-brimmed hat to protect your scalp, as well as sunglasses to protect your eyes. Sunburns can be severe, so if you do have one and need to find relief, taking a cold bath can help alleviate some of the pain. Finding a gentle moisturizer that contains aloe vera can also be soothing to the skin. You can also get relief by taking over-the-counter medication, such as ibuprofen, to help with the discomfort as well as reduce inflammation.

Food Poisoning
That summer picnic or BBQ may actually be a breeding ground for bacteria. In order to avoid food poisoning at your next picnic or BBQ, you should always make sure any meat or poultry you plan on grilling is thoroughly thawed and prepared (such as marinated) prior to leaving home. You should also make sure all produce is washed thoroughly before eating it. You should also pack your cooler correctly. It’s important to keep any thawed, raw foods separate from foods that are already cooked or don’t require cooking. Coolers should contain plenty of ice packs and be a temperature of no higher than 40°F. Before and after handling food, make sure your hands are washed thoroughly. Foods should also be kept out of direct sunlight and shouldn’t be left out sitting for more than 2 hours. If the outside temperature is 90°F or above, then foods shouldn’t be left out for longer than 1 hour. And, as always, make sure foods (especially meat, poultry and seafood) are cooked thoroughly before consumption. Symptoms of food poisoning can include nausea, vomiting and diarrhea, and can sometimes be severe and may require medical intervention.

Insect Bites and Stings
Bites and stings are another common occurrence around summertime. Especially mosquito bites and bee stings. For some, bites and stings can be more of a painful nuisance, but for others they may be life-threatening as it’s possible to develop an allergic reaction as a result of a bite or sting. While they’re not 100% preventable, there are certain steps you can take in effort to try and avoid being bitten or stung, such as avoiding wearing perfumes, light-coloured clothing, and guard sugary foods or beverages (such as soda.) Pain, tenderness and itching can all occur as a result of a bite or a sting. However, if you develop hives or swelling across large areas of your body, notice swelling of the face or tongue, or develop a tight chest or have trouble breathing, you should seek medical attention immediately.

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