We get it — summer is great. It’s a time for enjoyment, for laughter-filled summer nights, for spending time outdoors exploring. Your health, and all the ways you could be risking it by soaking up the sun and taking spontaneous adventures, might be the farthest thing from your mind. Some of the ways summer affects your body are obvious. You sweat more and you get sleepy in the sun, for example. But summer makes you sick in some other ways that you might not expect.
Summer is a great time to travel — there are so many fun places to visit and family-friendly trips that are best taken in the sunny, gorgeous weather. But travel can expose you to all kinds of germs from the airports, airplanes, and public transportation you have to take to get to your destination. You’d be surprised at how dirty some seemingly clean areas of an airplane can be. Make sure to wash your hands often and refrain from touching too many surfaces if you don’t have to.
Barbecues, holidays, and summer parties can be a blast, but they all involve one thing that seriously messes with your health: alcohol. Drinking, especially when you drink under direct sunlight, can be dangerous. Too many alcoholic drinks can cause long-term health effects — not to mention the dehydration and hangovers it can cause. Alternating drinks with glasses of water can be helpful, both to pace yourself and make sure you don’t get too dehydrated.
Even when you’re not drinking alcohol, dehydration is a danger to watch out for in the summer. You might need to drink more water than usual this time of year since you’re sweating and moving a whole lot more than you would in chillier seasons. If you struggle to remember to drink enough water, you could try drinking a tastier, healthy hydrating beverage instead.
Practicing food safety is necessary all year round, but summer has a few unique scenarios that many are unprepared for. Picnicking and grilling both pose their own threats when it comes to foodborne bacteria. At a picnic, it’s important to store your food properly and keep your food chilled when necessary. Leave food unrefrigerated for over two hours and it could start to grow bacteria on the surface. When grilling, make sure you cook meat all the way through. Use this guide to perfectly cook your steak and this guide for your chicken. You don’t want to make a grilling mistake you’ll regret!
There’s a difference between feeling a little warm and getting heat exhaustion — but the extreme conditions of summer should be taken seriously. Heat exhaustion poses an extra threat under conditions of high humidity and intense physical activity. Watch out for symptoms of heat exhaustion such as dizziness, fainting, muscle cramps, and nausea. These symptoms might seem small, but even the most benign-seeming symptoms could signal something serious!
Mosquitos and mosquito bites may feel like nothing more than a nuisance. But in some cases, they can pose a real threat to your health. Insects carry disease, and mosquitos in particular have been known to spread illnesses such as Zika or dengue. But even if the mosquito that bit you is disease-free, your bite could get infected. Avoid scratching, since you could rip the skin and expose yourself to the germs hiding under your fingernails.
Going for a swim at the beach is a great way to cool off and get some exercise. But the water could actually make you sick. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there were 140 outbreaks of infections from norovirus, E. coli, and other pathogens linked to untreated bodies of water from 2000 to 2014. Of these outbreaks, ocean water was responsible for 32 percent. To prevent getting sick, inhale as little water through your nose as possible and don’t let any get in your mouth. You may also want to avoid water that looks especially foamy, smells bad, or is an unusual color.
When you think of protecting your skin in summer, you might think of sunscreen and stop there. But there are other hazards that could pose a risk to your skin this season. Rashes are especially common in the summer due to all the time spent in high-heat conditions and in the pool. If you don’t shower directly after swimming in the pool, for instance, it could have scary side effects that show on your skin. High temperatures can also induce heat rash. Support your skin as best you can by eating these foods with the nutrients your skin needs.
There’s nothing better than the feeling of sand between your toes — unless, of course, that sand has hidden shards of glass and other hazards. Walking barefoot in the sand can be tricky, since it’s hard to see what’s sitting beneath the surface. Sticking to beaches that are cleaned regularly can help, as can wearing shoes when walking long distances in the sand.
Sunburns are more than just uncomfortable. They could result in scarring if you’re not careful, not to mention that they put your health at serious risk from skin cancer. Make sure to apply sunscreen every single day — especially on these sneaky occasions when you’re getting more sun than you think.