50 Summer Health Dangers You’re Probably Ignoring
Don’t dismiss these very real, often overlooked summer dangers.
A sunburn on your eyeballs
Yes, you read that right. It’s called photokeratitis, and it can happen in just a few hours of exposure to strong, unblocked sun. If you don’t wear sunglasses regularly, you’re also putting yourself at an increased risk for cataracts, macular degeneration, and growths on your eye. According to the Vision Council, people are very lax about eye protection: A recent survey found that only 31 percent wear UV-protective sunglasses every time they go outside and just 44 percent wear them at the beach. This type of damage is “cumulative and irreversible.” So consistently wear sunglasses with UVA and UVB protection to avoid a problem that’s a lot bigger than crow’s feet. Check out these 39 simple habits that protect your eyes over the summer and all year long.
E. coli at your local beach
We’ve all heard about E. coli popping up in summertime food…but in the sand on the beach? Researchers at the University of Hawaii say that being exposed to fecal contamination and its associated bacteria on even the most beautiful sandy shore is a real risk. They found that fecal bacterial levels in the sand were 10 to 100 times higher than in the surrounding water. This may be because bacteria decay at a slower rate in the sand than in seawater, so the bugs accumulate in “biofilms” and in areas that the sun can’t reach. To avoid potential infection, make sure to cover any cuts and also wash your hands frequently.
Think you’re safe from being eaten alive because you’re not heading into shark-infested seas? Think again. Meet the Naegleria fowleri, also delightfully known as the brain-eating amoeba. It loves warm freshwater sources, such as lakes, rivers, and hot springs. According to the CDC, from July through September, the southern-tier states are the most at risk, with about half of the cases popping up in Texas and Florida. Limit possible exposure by keeping your head above water when swimming and avoiding stirring up sediment on the ground.
Carcinogens from your BBQ
Nothing says “summer” like a good, old-fashioned barbecue. But the good, old-fashioned way of grilling over an open flame can create two carcinogens—heterocyclic amine (HCA) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). According to a study, if you eat charred meat frequently, your risk of pancreatic cancer can jump by 60 percent; postmenopausal women are also at an increased risk of developing breast cancer. To reduce these risks, use a spicy or alcohol-based marinade; studies have shown that both decrease carcinogen creation. You should also cook your food for a longer time at a lower temperature: HCAs start to form when the grill hits 325 degrees.
Walking barefoot in the park (or anywhere else)
There’s nothing like feeling the grass on your feet…until you accidentally step on something sharp. Puncture wounds are common in summer, and stepping on a rusty nail or another sharp object will require a tetanus shot within 48 hours if you haven’t had one in the past five years. For people with diabetes and other nerve damage to the feet, things could be even worse: “If they step on something sharp that breaks the skin without feeling it, that injury could introduce an infection that threatens the viability of their toes, foot, or even lower leg,” says Pat Salber, MD, a board-certified internist and emergency physician and the founder of the website The Doctor Weighs In. “If you have a foot neuropathy, never go barefoot, and wear shoes with firm soles. It is far better than risking amputation due to an infection related to a ‘silent’ injury.” Here are 9 other things that diabetics should watch out for this summer.
Stepping in poop with your bare feet can be even more disgusting than you think. If you come into contact with hookworm-infested animal excrement, you can develop a something called a creeping eruption, which causes an itchy, threadlike rash. Children are more at risk for this than adults since they tend to go barefoot outside more frequently and venture into places adults would stay away from. A course of antibiotics will clear things up—but get to the doctor fast since it spreads quickly.
The “July effect” in hospitals
Monkey Business Images/Shutterstock
This one has nothing to do with the sun, sand, or surf, but it’s an equally terrifying summer health danger. According to a study published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, there is a 10 percent increase in deaths at teaching hospitals every July. That’s when new doctors-in-training start their residencies and, as a result, are more apt to make mistakes—namely when it comes to prescribing and administering medication. Be a strong advocate for yourself, enlist a family member or friend to help, and never be afraid to speak up if something seems off. Here are 50 other secrets hospitals don’t want to tell you.
Even if your doctors are top-notch and your surgery goes well, you’re at an increased risk for surgical-site infections in the summer months. The journal Infection Control & Hospital Epidemiology reports that when the thermometer rises above 90 degrees Fahrenheit, a patient’s odds of being hospitalized for this post-op complication rises by 28.9 percent compared to when temperatures are under 40 degrees. While patients should always be vigilant about wound care, they should be especially aware that this could be an issue in the warmer weather and seek medical attention at the first sign of a possible infection.
Going down a slide with your child
Young toddlers at great heights are enough to give you heart palpitations, but resist the urge to climb up there and slide down with them. Why? Because your little one might end up with a broken leg. According to information gathered from ERs nationwide from 2002 to 2015, the most common injuries on slides occurred with children between 12 and 23 months, with 36 percent of them suffering lower-leg fractures. In these cases, a child’s leg likely got caught on the edge of the slide, and the adult’s added weight likely made them go faster and twist that leg dangerously. If you still want to do some tandem-sliding, keep your little one’s extremities secure and away from the slide’s sides.
Deadly heat-related illnesses
If you dismiss the early signs of heat exhaustion and heat stroke as the normal effects of a hot day, you could be putting your life on the line. The National Weather Service reports that extreme heat kills 175 people in the United States every year. Warning signs you shouldn’t ignore include dizziness, headache, nausea, fatigue, and sweating. That said, when your body temperature reaches 104 degrees in the throes of heat stroke, you will actually stop sweating. Another caution from Everyday Health: Certain medications could make you more vulnerable to the heat, including antihistamines, blood pressure and heart medications, diuretics, laxatives, antidepressants, and seizure medications. Be safe by staying cool, staying hydrated, and listening to your body. Check out these tricks to cool down in the summer.
Driving without sunscreen
Monkey Business Images/Shutterstock
Getting behind the wheel without protecting your skin can be just as hazardous as baking on the beach. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, Americans incur more photodamage on the left sides of their faces—aka the driver’s side—than the right. Glass blocks UVB rays and windshields are specially treated to block UVA rays, but side and rear windows still let UVA through. That’s why it’s essential to wear sunscreen every day, without fail. “Both UVA and UVB rays contribute to the development of skin cancer, but because UVA penetrates deeper, it is the larger contributor to wrinkles and sagging skin,” says Anne Chapas, MD, the founder and medical director of Union Square Laser Dermatology. “Also don’t forget reflection off water and sidewalks. Patients are always encountering potential UV damage even when they don’t realize it.”
Poison ivy, oak, and sumac
These itch-inducing plants have been around forever, but in recent years, they’ve become stronger and more populous. This may be a result of warmer temperatures and rising carbon dioxide levels due to climate change. To protect yourself, know what these problematic plants look like: Poison ivy and oak often have branches with three leaves, while poison sumac can have clusters of seven to 13 leaves, as well as black spots that look like paint splatters. And if you’ve touched them? The U.S. Forest Service suggests cleaning the affected area with rubbing alcohol within 10 minutes, as well as washing any clothes or tools that have come in contact with them since the plants’ urushiol oil can stay on surfaces. Check out these 10 poison-ivy treatments you’ll be thankful to know.
It sounds innocuous enough, but this plant with yellow flowers that resemble wildflowers or celery leaves can cause serious damage to your body. Wild parsnip contains something called psoralen, and when touched and exposed to sunlight, it can cause a rash, blisters, and burning, scalding pain. Even when the blisters heal, dark red or brownish discoloration in those spots can linger for months. You’re most likely to encounter these problematic plants between May and July.
Beware of pretty plants. This weed, which can grow up to 14 feet tall, is another poisonous plant you should have on your radar, especially if you live in New England, the Northwest, and the Mid-Atlantic. With delicate white flowers and green stems sporting red or purple spots, hogweed can cause burning, blistering, and long-term photosensitivity, similar to what happens with wild parsnip—but it could be so severe that it might necessitate a skin graft. Plus, if hogweed’s sap gets into your eyes, it could cause blindness.
The ubiquitous summer sandal should come with a warning label. According to various studies, flip-flops can be bad for your feet, joints, and muscles. Since they usually don’t have any arch support, they can change the way you walk, causing you to take shorter steps and putting more stress on your body. People who are overweight are at an increased risk of developing health problems, including the painful foot condition plantar fasciitis. And the risks extend beyond your own body, believe it or not: According to one U.K. survey, flip-flops may contribute to more than a million car accidents each year. How? They could make it difficult for a driver to brake quickly and efficiently, something confirmed by simulator tests. Don’t miss these other scary reasons you should never wear flip-flops.
While drowning can occur year-round, it only makes sense that it’s more common when people frequent pools and beaches. According to the CDC, around 4,000 people in the United States drown each year, and the two biggest at-risk groups are children under five and those between 15 and 24. Alcohol is often a factor in fatalities involving adolescents and adults. So, adults: Stay sober to stay safe, and make sure that older kids know the risks of drinking while near water. As for younger children, Dr. Salber says, “Home pools should have childproof fencing to avoid accidental drownings, and children should be taught to respect the dangers of unguarded bodies of water.” Teach them to swim, make sure they wear inflatables if they can’t swim well, and always keep a close eye on them. Remember: People often don’t splash and scream when they go under, so vigilance is key.
Every year, rip currents claim the lives of more than 100 people. Live Science describes them as “strong river-like channels” in the ocean, and while they don’t technically pull you under, they will carry you away. At that point, people tend to panic and their risk of drowning increases. So, how can you identify and avoid a rip current? Beware of calm patches of water between intense breaking waves, especially at low tide, when the water is already moving out. If you do get caught in a rip current, don’t swim against it; that will tire you out and get you nowhere. Instead, experts recommend swimming sideways out of the current or even just treading water until you’re released from it. Check out these 9 beach-safety rules that could save your life.
Plastic playground equipment
If you’re a parent, you probably touch metal playground structures before letting your child go on them since you know they can get super hot in the sun…but do you do the same with plastic ones? You should. According to Good Housekeeping, plastic can also heat up enough to cause second-degree burns on your child’s delicate skin. Be wary of darker-color plastic, which absorbs more of the sun’s heat, and be particularly careful with children under two years of age.
Poor judgment while boating
Always wear a life jacket, says the Coast Guard: 80 percent of boating accidents involved drowning, and of that number, 83 percent of victims weren’t wearing a life jacket. Also, make sure that your boat driver is experienced. More than 75 percent of fatalities happened on boats on which the operator wasn’t certified in boating safety.
Sunburns on cloudy days
It’s easy to forget to slather on the sunscreen when there’s not a ray of sunshine in sight, but that’s when you may need it the most. According to the Mayo Clinic, around 80 percent of the sun’s UV rays can pass through clouds and to your unprotected skin. And when it’s cloudy, hazy or cool, you’re more likely not only to forget your SPF—you’re also more likely to stay outside unprotected for longer. Also, sand and water can reflect UV rays, and in the Mayo Clinic’s words, burn your skin “as severely as direct sunlight.” Check out these 8 other surprising things that could cause a sunburn.
Your heart health
Recent studies have shown that you’re more likely to have a heart attack in the winter months, but that doesn’t mean you’re in the clear during the hot, hazy days of summer. Matthew Mintz, MD, a Bethesda-based primary-care physician and internist, says that normal summer temperatures shouldn’t increase a person’s risk of heart attack but that things can get complicated for those who take blood pressure or other heart medications. “When the temperature goes up, the body keeps itself cool by increasing blood flow to the skin to ‘let off some steam,’” he explains. “However, blood pressure medications can block some of the body’s normal responses to heat and can increase the risk of heat stroke and/or dehydration.” As a result, those people should be particularly careful about staying cool and hydrated.
That poolside cocktail might be refreshing and relaxing, but you should think twice before ordering another round. That’s because, as Dr. Mintz explains, “alcohol is a diuretic, meaning it makes you urinate more, so even though you’re drinking a beverage, you can lose more fluid than you take in.” While he says that a few drinks alone likely won’t cause dehydration, they can contribute to or accelerate it. Plus, as he mentions above, blood-pressure medications can pose an added risk: “A 60-year-old man who is otherwise healthy but on blood-pressure or cholesterol medicine might have a beer or two by the pool on a hot, sunny day and get lightheaded, dizzy, or pass out without much warning.” Here are 7 unexpected signs of dehydration you should know about.
Leaving kids home alone
School’s out for summer… which means kids have a lot more time to get themselves into dangerous situations that could land them in the hospital. While that could be anything from drowning to ingesting a poisonous substance, an advisory list from the Consumer Federation of America and SafeChild.net reveals that kids who are home alone are three times more likely to be injured or harmed in some way than when they are with an adult. So, make sure that kids know what to do in case of an emergency, and depending on their ages and temperaments, possibly reconsider their home-alone time.
Skimping on sunscreen
People who diligently apply sunscreen every morning think they’re safe, but their false sense of security can put them at risk. In a survey of 156 U.S. dermatologists, 99 percent said their patients don’t use enough sunscreen. So what is the magical amount? According to Y. Claire Chang, MD, of Union Square Laser Dermatology, people should apply 1 ounce (about the size of a shot glass) of a broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher—every two hours. “Reapplication is just as important as applying it in the morning,” she says. Plus, women shouldn’t fall into the trap of thinking that their SPF-infused makeup provides enough protection all day. “Many makeups only have SPF 15,” Dr. Chang adds, “and most people do not apply a thick enough coat to allow for full protection.” So, sunscreen first, makeup second, and reapplication third if you’re going to be outside for an extended period of time. Here are 10 sunscreen myths that make dermatologists cringe.
Most moms-to-be know that they should keep their weight and junk-food intake in check to help prevent gestational diabetes, but something as seemingly innocuous as being pregnant in the summer can increase their chance of developing it. A Toronto-based study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal found that with every 10-degree Celsius rise (50 degrees Fahrenheit), a pregnant woman’s risk goes up by 6 to 9 percent. They theorize that the body’s subcutaneous brown fat, which heats you up when it’s cold out, helps the body regulate sugar levels and, therefore, offers protection against diabetes. It apparently does less of that when it’s hotter out. Of course, it’s also good to be active when pregnant, but make sure not to get overheated and to stay in air conditioning when possible.
Heat-related car-seat deaths
Each year, more than 36 children die from the heat after being forgotten in a car, and the majority of those incidents happen in the summer. Texas and Florida have the dubious distinction of being the states with the most deaths, but it can happen anywhere—and things can get deadly fast. According to CNN, the temperature of a car can go up by 20 degrees in just 10 minutes, and children’s body temperatures rise three to five times fast than adults’. You may think that Forgotten Baby Syndrome only happens to “bad” parents, but there’s actually a scientific reason that your brain goes on autopilot, and that type of judgment could put your child at risk. So always check the backseat before exiting your car, and think about leaving your purse or cell phone back there to help you remember.
While we all know that we shouldn’t leave food in the heat for too long, many people don’t keep a close eye on the clock when they’re at a party or picnic. But they should if they don’t want to get sick. According to the FDA, food shouldn’t stay in the so-called danger zone—between 40 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit—for more than two hours. That number gets knocked down to just one hour if the mercury rises above 90. That’s when bacteria, mold, and yeast start forming on your food and release waste products and toxins. Here are 8 rules that will help you avoid food poisoning.
Undercooked, contaminated, and otherwise dangerous food
Approximately 128,000 people in the United States are hospitalized after contracting a food-borne illness every year, and the most fatalities result from salmonella, toxoplasma, listeria, and norovirus, according to the CDC. Problems can occur when food such as hamburgers and chicken aren’t thoroughly cooked, when raw shellfish is contaminated with certain bacteria, and when vegetables and leafy greens aren’t washed properly.
Shark attacks close to the shore
Experts swear that shark attacks are rare (and the statistics confirm that), but no one wants to end up as a snack for one of the world’s most terrifying predators. According to the National Ocean Service, attacks are more prevalent near the shore, usually in front of a sandbar or between sandbars, where sharks can get trapped by low tide, and near steep drop-offs, where shark prey congregates. Be shark-smart in the water by staying in groups, by swimming during the day, and by ditching brightly colored bathing suits and shiny jewelry, which can apparently attract the wrong kind of dorsal-finned attention.
Drinking while boating
Drinking and driving don’t mix—and goes for boats as well as cars. According to statistics from the Coast Guard, there were 4,463 boating accidents, 701 deaths, 2,903 injuries, and $49 million of property damage in 2016. Alcohol was the biggest contributing factor in accidents with fatalities.
Things that sting
More time outside means more risk of summertime stings. The problem is that many people don’t know they’re allergic to a bee or wasp sting until after they’ve been stung, and sometimes it takes a number of stings to trigger a full-blown allergic reaction. While life-threatening reactions to insect stings are rare, they’re not as rare as you might think: They’re a problem for nearly seven million people in the United States. If the pain of a sting is accompanied by hives, chest tightness, difficulty breathing, swelling of the tongue, or dizziness, see a doctor immediately. Here are other dangerous bugs to watch out for this summer.
Dry drowning has been in the news a lot recently because it often affects children and because it happens when people think they’re in the clear, after a near-drowning scare. It occurs when inhaled water makes the vocal cords swell and closes off the airway. And then there’s the similar secondary drowning, during which water enters the lungs, causing fluid build-up and possibly pulmonary edema. While rare (1 to 2 percent of drownings), both dry and secondary drowning can be fatal if not caught early. The signs to look out for, according to WebMD: coughing, chest pain, labored breathing, and extreme lethargy. If your child is exhibiting any of these symptoms or just seems “off” after an incident, head to the ER immediately.
Barbecuing is a summer staple, but it’s one that requires more safety know-how than just firing up the grill and slapping on some hamburgers. According to the National Fire Protection Association, between 2009 and 2013, there was an average of 8,900 home fires that started with a grill, hibachi, or barbecue. This resulted in an annual average of 10 deaths, 160 injuries, and $118 million in property damage. Five out of six of the culprits were gas grills. To avoid a similarly devastating situation, make sure to clean equipment properly, keep it away from things that could catch fire, and never leave it unattended when it’s on.
Approximately 80,000 people in the United States head to the hospital every year for lawnmower accidents, according to Prevention. Fortunately, the injuries aren’t always as gruesome as you might think. The majority of them happen when a mower accidentally runs over an object like a rock or a stick and the mower blades inadvertently send it hurtling in your direction. Take particular care to clear the yard of debris before mowing, and make sure to mow in full daylight. It’s also a good idea to wear sunglasses, long pants, long sleeves, and closed-toe shoes for protection.
Hidden air-conditioner mold
You might not see it, but that doesn’t mean it’s not there and causing a potentially big problem. Dust, mold, allergens, and pollution accumulate on air-conditioning-unit filters, complicating things for people whose lung health is already compromised. Who might that be? Those with allergies, asthma, or other respiratory diseases. CNN advises people to clean or replace filters every three months, and when they do, to wear gloves and a mask for protection. Here are 11 other surprising ways your house might be making you sick.
The unique atmosphere of outdoor music festivals can create the perfect deadly storm. One of the biggest problems comes from mixing drugs and alcohol. As Live Science explains, that can lead to the creation of new compounds in the body, making the alcohol and drugs even more toxic. Alcohol also worsens dehydration, which is already often an issue because of warm temperatures and dancing. A combination of these factors could lead to hyperthermia and even the deadly rhabdomyolysis, which can cause kidney failure and death. In short: When your judgment is impaired, you might not even realize that you’re in danger.
Sunburn from perfumes and essential oils
Talk about hidden dangers. Both perfumes and essential oils can make your skin more sensitive to the sun and, as a result, increase your risk of sunburn. Benzophenones, retinoids, and certain fragrances are the culprits in perfumes, according to Livestrong, while essential oils “act like cooking oils” and make your skin absorb more UV rays. It’s probably a good idea to ditch the scents if you plan to be in the summer sun.
Urinary tract infections
A urinary tract infection is annoying in any season, but studies show that you have a higher likelihood of developing one in the summer, especially if you’re a woman under 44. This may be due to a higher risk of dehydration or an increase in sexual activity during the summer months. So take particular care to stay hydrated, which will dilute urine and flush out bacteria, and always use the bathroom shortly after having sex.
Zika, West Nile, and other infections carried by mosquitoes
Every year, there seems to be a new dangerous mosquito-borne disease wreaking havoc on the country. In the past decade, there have been surges of West Nile, which can cause debilitating muscle weakness and encephalitis, as well as Zika, which can cause the devastating birth defect microcephaly in the fetuses of pregnant women. The problem is, mosquitoes are so prevalent, it feels like a losing battle, so people end up getting lax or doing nothing. Dr. Salber advises avoiding exposure when possible: “I am not saying you should never venture into nature. Rather, you should take precautions, like avoiding being outside uncovered during periods when mosquitoes are most active, covering up with long-sleeved shirts and pants, and using a high-quality insect repellent.” For added protection, check out these 8 foods that can protect you against bug bites.
That pretty pedicure can get pretty disgusting pretty quickly—and it has nothing to do with going too long between appointments. Fungal infections occur more frequently when it’s warm out, according to Yale Medicine, and they can be difficult to treat. Medication works only 50 percent of the time, and a new nail could take more than a year to regrow. That’s why it’s so important not to leave yourself vulnerable to infection. Make sure to go to a reputable nail salon, bring your own tools, and clean them properly with warm, soapy water before sterilizing them with rubbing alcohol.
Your daily medications
Sunscreen isn’t enough to protect you from the summer sun when you’re taking certain medications that prime you for a burn from the inside out. “There are phototoxic and photoallergic reactions that occur when the drug is distributed throughout the body and then exposed to UV light,” explains Dr. Chapas. “The biggest offenders we see in dermatology are topical tretinoin and oral doxycycline, but there are tons of drugs that can cause this reaction.” To avoid this problem, talk to your doctor about the risks and potential side effects of your prescriptions. Dr. Chapas usually advises patients to stop non-essential medications, like ones for acne, if they’re taking a beach vacation or will otherwise be in the sun for prolonged periods of time.
Forgetting to put sunscreen on these spots
When applying sunscreen, the obvious spots are, well, obvious. But there are other equally vulnerable areas that are regularly exposed to the sun, and when you overlook them, you increase your odds of developing skin cancer. Dr. Chapas says that men often forget to protect their scalps and ears. Aside from applying sunscreen, she recommends wearing a large-brimmed hat for protection. And for women? “Women tend to develop skin cancers on their legs,” she says. “They need to be vigilant about applying sunscreen and not tanning their legs while the rest of their body is under the umbrella.” Other at-risk spots: lips, the neck, and the chest. Here are 37 other ways to cut your cancer risk.
An animal doesn’t have to foam at the mouth like Cujo to be infected with rabies—and it doesn’t even have to bite you to transmit it. Rabies, which attacks the nervous system, can also be spread if an animal’s infected saliva comes into contact with a person’s eyes, nose, mouth or a cut, and incidences rise in summer because of increased outdoor time. Bats can be a particular risk, especially for kids, because bats have very small teeth; children might not realize they were bitten or might not be able to explain that they were. So if your child has any direct contact with a wild animal, call a doctor right away and see if vaccinations are recommended. Incubation periods can be long, and once symptoms start to appear—including fever, headache, and paralysis—rabies has spread to the brain and is usually fatal.
People are just happier in summer, aren’t they? Not necessarily. Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) affects around one in ten people during the summer, causing depression, feelings of hopelessness, insomnia, and anxiety. Those with summertime SAD may also feel isolated because everyone seems happy except them. According to Smithsonianmag.com, this particular form of SAD may be triggered by too much sun exposure or heat, allergies, or shifting bedtimes. Whatever the cause, the treatment is the same for those affected in the winter: Talk to a professional about what’s happening, and know that you’re not alone. Watch for these 8 silent signs of SAD.
Weight gain in children
Idle minds lead to idle hands—which may end up reaching into a cookie jar. According to NPR, a study in the journal Obesity found that kids are at an increased risk for weight gain and childhood obesity during their two months off from school. Researchers looked at the data from children in kindergarten through second grade and saw that obesity rates jumped from 8.9 to 11.5 percent; the prevalence of being overweight also went from 23.3 to 28.7 percent. Researchers point to irregular sleep schedules in summer for a possible cause, as well as an increase in screen time. So, try not to let those summer days be all that lazy: Keep kids active and on a schedule. Check out these seven things every parent should do to prevent summer weight gain in their kids.
John D Sirlin/Shutterstock
Lightning might not strike in the same spot twice, but it strikes more often than you think. According to an analysis by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, between 2006 and 2015, 313 people died after being hit by lightning in the United States: 11 percent of the fatalities occurred when fishing, 6 percent on the beach. Live Science says that the waves might make it hard for beachgoers to hear approaching storms and that people often wait too long to seek shelter because they’re hoping the storm won’t actually hit.
Tiny ticks carrying Lyme disease
In recent years, Lyme disease has soared, especially in the Northeast, the Mid-Atlantic, and part of the Upper Midwest. Around 30,000 cases are reported annually, though the actual number may be closer to 300,000. The early signs of Lyme—which can damage joints, the heart, and the brain—are fever, headache, fatigue, muscle, and joint pain, as well as a distinctive bulls-eye rash around the site of the bite. Fortunately, “being treated early almost always leads to a complete recovery,” says Dr. Mintz, so do a full-body check on yourself and kids every day. Prevention is also important. “People should avoid wooded and brushy areas with high grass,” advises Dr. Mintz, “walk in the center of trails when hiking, and use bug repellent on exposed skin.” Check out these 6 smart tips for avoiding insect bites and stings.
Shorts season brings innumerable scuffs and scrapes for kids, but if you’re not careful, even the tiniest of cuts could pose a serious health hazard. Research out of Johns Hopkins reveals that antibiotic-resistant staph infections (aka MRSA) affecting children spike during summer months. Plus, 74 percent of those under 20 who contract MRSA do so from a “community setting,” as opposed to a hospital. To protect kids, teach them about good hygiene, keep cuts covered with dry bandages, and don’t let them share towels or other items that contact bare skin. Also, see a doctor immediately if a wound becomes red, swollen, pus-filled, or red-streaked, as well as if it is accompanied by a fever.
Not to frighten you, but there’s a good chance you walked right by a snake today. Snake bites not only increase during the summer when people spend more time in the great outdoors—they’re also increasing overall by about 100 to 200 per year. Between 7,000 and 8,000 people are bitten in the United States every year, according to the CDC; thankfully only a small handful of snake bites will be fatal. Experts advise staying on alert when outdoors, wearing boots or closed-toe shoes, as well as keeping hands and feet out of crevices in rocks, wood piles, and high grass. And above all, if you are bitten, get professional help quickly. This is not the time to wait and see what happens or to try out an old-wives’ tale like sucking out the venom (which, by the way, doesn’t work).
Driving on any summer holiday
Wang Jie (Jay Wang)/Shutterstock
Sure, there are holidays all year round, but the summer ones can be particularly hazardous to your health if you’re on the road. One study showed that people are four times more likely to die in a traffic accident over Memorial Day weekend than over a regular weekend. As for the single deadliest day of the year? The Fourth of July. The takeaway: Consider extending your trip and traveling on less high-risk days, and above all, be careful out there! Next, don’t miss these healthy ways to prepare your body for summer.