Flu season and slipping on the ice may be far behind us, but warmer weather often brings its own set of hazards. Too much fun in the sun, swimming, and even picnicking can create health risks you never expected. Here’s what you need to know about staying safe this summer.
Flip flop injury
Summer is all about ditching your socks and sneakers for comfortable footwear that allows your tootsies to breathe. But before you head out to the grocery store wearing your flip flops, consider this…Flip flops are not built for long-term wear and may even be a health hazard for your feet. While they’re summertime-trendy, they’re also structurally flawed. The typical flip flop has a thin rubber sole and no arch support. One study even found that wearing flip flops alters your gait significantly. Gait is the way a person walks normally in stride, using correct muscles and coordination. However, when someone’s gait changes, it’s usually due to conditions such as arthritis, a foot condition, or ill-fitting shoes. Changes in gate could cause a delayed reaction, weaker muscles, and less muscle coordination.
Each summer, dirt enthusiasts visit doctors for injuries they developed while gardening. Injuries such as “weeder’s wrist,” “gardener’s back” and “pruner’s neck” are common complaints. Research published in Clinical Medicine suggests that the top three injuries sustained in the garden involve pruners, flower pots, and lawn mowers. Remember you’re using muscle groups you may not have used all winter long. Experts suggest:
- Gently stretching to warm up muscles and joints prior to gardening.
- Spending only 1.5 hours in the garden each day, to start.
- Using a knee pad and bending with both knees when planting.
- Using a smaller spade when digging.
- Switching between tasks regularly.
- Keeping knees bent and back straight when lifting.
Golf requires time, perseverance, and a great deal of skill, which means time spent at driving ranges trying to perfect the swing. But, the explosive nature of the swing places an incredible amount of stress on the body. Stress that translates to injury. Even professional golfers experience some type of injury at one time, or another suggests the Golf Channel. Not warming up the muscles properly is one way you might sustain an injury playing your favorite sport this summer. Injuries could include back pain, tendinitis, bursitis, knee pain, tears in the rotator cuff, and neck injury.
- Warm-up the muscles before practicing or playing.
- Take frequent breaks.
- Slowly work up to longer periods of practice and play.
Summertime food poisoning
When we think of summer, we think of picnics by the beach. But when food is not stored correctly and is left out in temperatures beyond the safe zone (40°F to 140°F), everyone is at risk of getting food poisoning. Food poisoning, also known as foodborne illness, is caused by consuming food contaminated with infectious organisms, such as parasites and bacteria. Rates of food poisoning among Americans often increase during the summer months, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), since bacteria grow faster in warmer weather. Food poisoning can start within hours of eating contaminated food and may include diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting.
Complications arise, according to the Mayo Clinic, when fluids are lost during vomiting and diarrhea and are not replaced. Generally, it will resolve without treatment. But some people, such as infants, the elderly, and anyone with a suppressed immune system or chronic illness may become too dehydrated and need to be hospitalized to receive intravenous fluids. In severe cases, dehydration can lead to death. Here’s how to prevent food poisoning from ruining your summer fun.
- Wash your hands, utensils and food surfaces well with warm, soapy water.
- Separate raw foods like meat, poultry, fish, and shellfish from ready-to-eat foods to prevent cross-contamination.
- Always cook foods to a safe temperature — use a food thermometer if necessary. Ground beef should be cooked to 160° F. Steaks and chops such as pork, lamb and veal should be cooked to at least 145° F. Chicken and turkey should be cooked to 165° F. Fish and shellfish should be cooked thoroughly – until opaque.
- Refrigerate leftovers within one to two hours of preparing them.
- Defrost food safely — never on the counter at room temperature. Either defrost food in the refrigerator or microwave frozen food using the “defrost” setting or “50% power.” Cook immediately.
- When in doubt, throw it out!
Brain eating amoebas
Brain-eating amoebas might sound like something out of a horror film. But in reality, this parasite is far from fiction. Naegleria fowleri, commonly known as brain-eating amoebas, are single-celled living organisms found in warm freshwaters. According to the CDC, it infects people when water from lakes and rivers containing the amoeba enter the body through the nose. It then travels up the nose to the brain, where it destroys the brain tissue. Although infections are rare, with only 34 infections reported in the U.S from 2009 to 2018, over 97 percent were fatal.
Limiting the amount of water that goes up the nose is your best course for prevention. If you’ve been swimming in warm, freshwater and develop a sudden onset of fever, stiff neck, headache, and vomiting, seek medical attention immediately.
When summer temperatures become dangerously uncomfortable, it can create potentially deadly situations for many. In fact, according to the CDC, extreme heat sends 65,000 Americans to emergency rooms annually. When the body can’t cool down properly after lengthy exposure in the sun, heatstroke can occur. According to the CDC, symptoms to watch out for include:
- A body temperature of 103°F and over
- A speeding pulse
- Hot, red, dry or damp skin
- Dizziness, confusion, and headache
- Becoming unconscious
- Heavily sweating
- Nausea and vomiting
- Muscle cramps
Stay well-hydrated on hot days and avoid gardening, exercising, or any strenuous activities during mid-day when the sun is at its strongest.
Warm, summer days often take you to the beach, lakeside cottage, or pool. But with swimming can come hazards. From diving injuries to drowning, unintentional injury and death, especially among children, is high, according to the CDC. Here’s how to prevent water-related accidents.
- Swim in an area supervised by lifeguards.
- Employ the buddy system. Swim with a friend or family member — never alone.
- Don’t allow distractions to take away your focus when supervising children in and around the water.
- Never leave young children unattended — without adult supervision.
- Children and inexperienced swimmers should always wear life jackets in the water. However, don’t solely rely on them.
- If a child goes missing, check the water first since every second counts to prevent death or disability.
Nothing beats fun in the summer sun. However, spending time outdoors does have its own set of risks. Stay safe!