Everyone looks forward to summertime picnics, beaches, boating, and barbeques. However, summer brings unique health challenges that can affect family fun. Avoid some of the pitfalls of the season by following these helpful tips.
One of the nicest things about summer is sharing homemade food with family and friends. But frequent handling and exposure to heat carries dangers of bacteria-related illnesses and viruses. Here are some ways to lessen your exposure:
· Wash your hands and use clean containers and utensils. Dirty hands, work surfaces, and utensils can all contaminate your food.
· Keep mayonnaise-based foods cold. Bacteria grows very quickly in warm weather when mayonnaise is mixed with food.
· Do not prepare foods more than twenty-four hours in advance. The longer a cooked food sits, the more the danger increases for bacteria growth. Foods that need to be cooked more than 24 hours ahead of time should be frozen.
· Cut melons need to be kept cold. Melons are a favorite spot of two nasty viruses, Salmonella and Shigella, and are often found in the rind. Wash the melon and keep it cold.
· Keep cold food cold. The temperature of your cooler must be 40 degrees or below to prevent bacteria growth.
· Keep hot food hot. Foods meant to be eaten hot need to stay at 140 degrees or higher to avoid harmful bacteria growth.
Avoid Swimmer’s Ear
Frequent immersion of the head in water, whether at the pool or at the beach, can cause the outer ear canal to become painful and inflamed. Although it is more common in children, adults can and do get “Swimmer’s Ear.” Reduce your risk by following these steps:
· Dry your ears after swimming.
· Do not stick things like Q-Tips (or other objects) into your ear canals.
· Stay away from water that had been previously closed due to pollution.
· Ask the pool staff about their chlorine and pH-testing. Don’t swim there if they don’t know or won’t give you an answer.
One of the dangers of camping or hiking is poison ivy, which grows quite well in hot weather. Touching it can result in painful blisters. First, learn what it looks like and teach your children too. Poison ivy, as you see in the picture, is three-leafed; a large, tear drop-shaped large leaf in the center, flanked by two smaller leaves on its side.
If you do get exposed, here are some hints on managing the rash:
· If possible, wash your skin immediately. If you are able to wash it off in ten minutes or less, you are less likely to develop the rash.
· DO NOT scrub or use hot water, which can push the poison deeper into your skin.
· If you were not able to wash in 10 minutes, a reaction will likely occur within 48 hrs.
· AVOID scratching! It’s hard to do but will only spread the poison. To lessen the itch, take an anti-histamine, apply Calamine lotion or hydrocortisone cream.
· Oatmeal baths (like Aveeno) will help dry out the blisters as well as sooth the skin.
· Wash all the clothing you were wearing . Surprisingly, the active poison, called “urushiol” can remain active for a year!
Apply Sunscreen Frequently
Nothing can ruin an otherwise great day like a nasty sunburn. We all know we should use it, but there are some things you need to be aware of before you head out this season. Just this week the FDA announced new guidelines for sun protection and offered other advice for avoiding sun burns and skin damage.
· Most people don’t put on enough sunscreen. Doctors say that to be fully covered, you need to apply the equivalent of a shot glass full of lotion to your body.
· You need to reapply sunscreen every 90 minutes to 2 hours
· Make sure your sunscreen is “broad-spectrum” and protects against both UVB and UVA rays.
· Choose an SPF of at least 30. Doctors say that anything over SPF 50 doesn’t really mean anything.
· New guidelines will no longer allow sunscreens to claim they are “water proof” or “sweat proof.” They can claim they are “water-resistant” but even so, doctors and scientists say, you still need to apply every 90 minutes to 2 hrs.
It’s very easy to become dehydrated in hot weather, and children are very susceptible to water loss. Although they may ask for soda or juice, make sure they (and you) are mostly drinking water. Sugary drinks, whether natural or artificial, are simply not as effective at hydration (and they add unnecessary calories).
Warning signs of dehydration include:
· Feeling dizzy
· Having a dry or sticky mouth
· Producing less or darker urine
If you notice any of these signs in yourself or in your children, get somewhere cool as quickly as possible and drink cool water.
PHOTO (cc): Flickr / mysza831