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Roll out those lazy, hazy, healthy days of summer

» Heat illnesses

» Food poisoning

» Keeping nature friendly

Travel tips

If you’re headed for the open road, be sure to bring:

  • copies of all your prescriptions, including for your eyeglasses
  • extra eyeglasses
  • a few days’ extra supply of essential medicines such as insulin or blood pressure medication
  • your doctor’s phone number
  • motion sickness medication
  • a list of your allergies
  • a thermometer, tweezers, scissors
  • pain reliever

Warm weather and outdoor activity go hand in hand, but summertime fun can quickly turn sour if you don’t take certain precautions. From sunburn and bug bites to an unforeseen bout of heat illness, a lot can go wrong when the temperature goes up.

Being smart about summer and knowing your limits can mean the difference between healthy and not-so-healthy outings. Here are a few summertime traps to avoid so you can beat the heat in the months ahead.

Heat illnesses

Although they’re preventable, serious heat-related illnesses land hundreds of thousands of Americans in hospital emergency rooms each summer. Becoming familiar with their warning signs could prevent a hot-weather problem from escalating into a crisis.

  • Heat cramps occur after vigorous activity like jogging or tennis. Their signs are painful abdominal spasms and cramps in the major muscles such as the legs and abdomen. Cramps subside with rest, cooling down and plenty of water.
  • Heat exhaustion presents an array of symptoms—fever, fainting, rapid pulse, low blood pressure, clammy skin, ashen skin tone and nausea. Overexertion and not drinking enough water are the usual culprits. To treat it, move indoors or to a shady spot, immediately lie down, prop up your feet, loosen tight clothes and drink cool water or sports beverages.
  • Heat stroke can be life threatening and requires immediate medical help. Its symptoms include not only those associated with heat exhaustion, but also rapid pulse and breathing, delirium, fainting and lack of perspiration to cool the body.

Risk factors for heat stroke include:

  • dehydration
  • age over 65
  • obesity
  • consuming alcohol in hot weather
  • having chronic heart or lung disease
  • taking medications that interfere with the body’s heat-regulating system

To prevent a heat emergency: Avoid the sun from late morning until 4 p.m.; limit vigorous exercise or chores to early mornings or late afternoons; dress in light-colored, loose-fitting clothes; continually drink plenty of water or juice; avoid caffeine and alcohol; and eat light meals.

Food poisoning

Picnics, camping trips and cookouts mean outdoor fun, but they can cause food-borne illness more easily, too. Some safeguards for better barbecues:

  • Wash your hands. Use disposable wipes if soap and hot water aren’t available.
  • Keep meats away from all other foods.
  • Keep raw food apart from cooked food.
  • Cover your food. Insects can spread salmonella.
  • Cook meat, poultry and fish completely.
  • Keep hot food hot and eat it at once. Keep cold food cold and return it to the ice chest after serving.
  • Use the two-hour rule: Discard food that’s been left out longer (one hour in heat above 85°F).
  • Another food rule: When in doubt, throw it out.
  • Make sure food is served on clean plates and eaten with clean flatware.

Keeping nature friendly

With just a little preparation, you can also sidestep other problems that sometimes mar outdoor fun.

Sunburn: Whenever you’re in the sun you need to wear sunscreen. Buy a quality product rated at least SPF 15 and apply it liberally to all exposed skin. That way, you’ll not only help foil skin cancer but also sun-induced wrinkles and age spots.

Too much sun is also a risk factor for cataracts, so use sunglasses that block both UVA and UVB ultraviolet rays. And don’t forget your wide-brimmed hat.

Plants and bugs: If you’re traveling to a wooded area, remember to guard against insects and plants that can spoil your fun, especially:

  • Poison ivy, oak and sumac. If your skin touches them, wash the area with soap and warm water to limit its spread. Calamine lotion and hydrocortisone cream can help stop the itch. And keep in mind that clothing can harbor the plants’ residue, so wash them immediately.
  • Bee, wasp or hornet stings can cause a medical emergency if you’re allergic to their venom. Most people, however, only experience a sharp pain that goes away after a few minutes. It’s important to remove the stinger promptly; use a flat edge such as a credit card to scrape it from the welt. Apply ice and cortisone ointment to the sting.
  • Deer ticks. These tiny insects live in low brush and spread Lyme disease, which causes chronic flu-like symptoms and muscle aches in a small percentage of people they bite. Check with the local health department to see if deer ticks are native to the area you’re in. Use tick repellent with the ingredient DEET to keep these pests away. Wear a long-sleeved shirt, long pants, socks and a hat if you’re in tick country. When you get home, use a mirror to search your body for ticks.


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