6 Summer Hazards to Beware

6 Summer Hazards to Beware

Don't let these dangers ruin your fun in the sun.

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By Patrick Sullivan

After a long winter of being cooped up indoors, it’s exciting to finally get outside and have some fun in the sun. But not so fast! Summertime is often known as trauma season in emergency departments. “People are just out more, so there’s more exposure,” says Carlo Reyes, MD, an emergency department physician at Los Robles Hospital and Medical Center in Thousand Oaks, California.

Bug bites, bad burgers and burns: read on to learn more about these and other potential dangers of summer.

Food Poisoning

2 / 7 Food Poisoning

No summer get-together is complete without a hot grill stacked with burgers and hot dogs. Just make sure you don’t serve your guests a helping of E. coli or salmonella. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), food poisoning cases spike in the summer due to conditions that allow bacteria to breed. Dr. Reyes says foodborne illnesses are caused either by the bacteria themselves or by the toxins they produce. Refrigerate food until you’re ready to eat, wash vegetables and cook meat to a safe temperature: 160°F for burgers and 165°F for poultry and hot dogs.


3 / 7 Sunburn

If you’re going to spend the day in the sun, don’t forget the sunscreen. “It’s so common that people forget to protect their skin with sunblock,” says Reyes. “Not only that, sunblock needs to be reapplied frequently.” Most cases of sunburn don’t need a trip to the ER, says Reyes, but if you have intense pain, fever and chills, blistering, headache, confusion or fainting, get to the hospital ASAP.

Dehydration and Heat Stroke

4 / 7 Dehydration and Heat Stroke

It’s vital to stay cool in hot weather. Dehydration and its more dangerous cousin, heat stroke, are serious risks, especially to children and the elderly. Dehydration and heat stroke have similar symptoms like thirstiness, dizziness, headache and high body temperature, but heat stroke can also cause confusion, decreased blood flow, rapid pulse and breathing and organ failure, says Reyes. “It occurs at a point where the body has a more difficult time regulating its temperature. The thermostat isn’t functioning.” For dehydration, get out of the sun and get some rest and fluids immediately; for heat stroke, call 911 and try to cool off until help arrives.


5 / 7 Drowning

There’s an average of 3,500 drownings in the U.S. every year, the majority of which occur between May and August. It’s also one of the most common causes of death in children. Unfortunately, a drowning can be hard to spot. “You don’t usually have someone screaming and flapping in the water and someone hears them,” says Reyes. If you see someone drowning, call 911 right away and give CPR, Reyes says. Even if the person comes to, they’ll still need to go to the hospital. Drowning-related deaths can occur 24 hours or longer after the incident, either from dry drowning—when the larynx seizes up to prevent water (and air) from entering the lungs—or secondary drowning, when water that was inhaled builds up and prevents breathing. And, be careful swimming near a source of electricity, especially around docks and marinas—an electrical current in the water can paralyze you, leaving you unable to swim and causing you to drown.

Bites and Stings

6 / 7 Bites and Stings

When the sun comes out, so do the creepy-crawlies. Certain ticks can carry Lyme disease, so they should be removed with tweezers. For bee and wasp stings, use a cool compress on the area, plus an over-the-counter antihistamine and painkiller, says Reyes. “The one that requires an immediate trip to the ER is one where the reaction affects either breathing or all the skin on the body. It’s a systemic reaction called anaphylaxis,” he says. And if you’re unlucky enough to be stung by a jellyfish, don’t bother with a certain home remedy. “Urine doesn’t work,” says Reyes. “Jellyfish stings are treated with vinegar.”

Related: 8 Ways to Reduce Your Risk of Getting Zika This Summer.

Bike Safety

7 / 7 Bike Safety

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), those aged 15 to 19 and over 40 have the highest bike death rates. Before you take your bicycle for a spin, make sure you’ve got a helmet and bright or reflective clothes. “The number one thing to remember about bike safety is the importance of wearing a helmet.” A helmet can save you a trip to the hospital or worse. You should also know you’re almost invisible to cars, Reyes says. “Wear very visible clothing with reflective or loud colors. Most accidents I see, no one even saw the bike.”