By Mary O’Brien, M.D.
Triple-digit temperatures. Devastating storms. Disease-carrying insects. Rip currents. Shark attacks. Jelly fish stings. Fireworks accidents. Food poisoning.
This list of problems only scratches the surface of serious summertime challenges. But an ounce of prevention really is worth a pound of cure. With that in mind, let’s consider some tips for minimizing summertime maladies:
- Never leave an infant, child, adult, or pet in an unattended car. Temperatures can soar past 120 F within minutes, even with the windows cracked. Within 20 minutes, temperatures can exceed 140 F. Every summer, mere carelessness leads to terrible tragedies. Please educate the people around you.
- If a storm is close enough for you to hear thunder, it is close enough for you to be struck by lightning. Get inside a car or building. Do not seek shelter under a tree that could turn you into a veritable lightning rod.
- Most hurricane-related deaths occur as a result of drowning. People who are out and about can face dangerous flash floods. Never attempt to drive through standing water. It takes only six inches of water to move a vehicle. Unless you are a first responder, please stay put in the immediate aftermath of a severe storm.
- These days, mosquitoes are more than a nuisance. The West Nile virus is already active in many states and the Zika virus remains a threat to pregnant women in particular. Eliminating standing water such as bird baths, planters, or backed up gutters where mosquitoes can breed can help. Avoiding outside activity at dawn and dusk when mosquitoes are out in full force would also help. Spraying protocols and insect zappers or traps may be worthwhile.
- Be prudent at the beach. Warnings about rip currents, sharks, jellyfish, contaminants, or other dangers are not issued to ruin everyone’s fun. Every summer, needless tragedies occur because people do foolish things. Be the voice of reason for younger people around you.
- Drink alcohol sparingly, if at all. The vast majority of fatal boating accidents involve alcohol. Even on shore, alcohol and high temperatures can be a disastrous combination.
- Let professionals handle the fireworks. No one ever imagines they could be horribly burned or blinded by an accident with a firecracker. Sadly, that is not rare.
- Keep any meats or side dishes made with mayonnaise at proper temperatures — hot or cold. Food poisoning can have consequences far beyond an upset stomach. When in doubt, throw it out.
Summertime is supposed to be fun. With a little prudence and common sense, it can be precisely that.