For many people Memorial Day weekend means finally getting to kick off summer by striking up the barbecue, taking a dip in the ocean or simply basking in the sunshine during a long weekend.
But celebrating the unofficial start of summer also means encountering a few hazards of the season. From sunburns to bug bites or even an ill-cooked hotdog, the summer months have a few perils to contend with. To help you avoid these pitfalls, we've put together a list of five health hazards for the summer months and how to avoid them.
After a long winter hibernation, it can be tempting to soak up as much sun as possible during a day at the beach or a picnic in the park, but experts warn that even a single sunburn can do lasting damage to the skin.
To enjoy the sun safely, the American Academy of Dermatology recommends using water-resistant, broad-spectrum sunscreen, which protects against UVA and UVB rays, which has an SPF of 30 or higher.
Additionally, experts advise seeking shade from 10a.m. to 2p.m., when the sun's rays are the strongest.
Unfortunately water and sand can amplify the sun's rays, so be extra-careful during trips to the beach. And be sure to reapply sun block every two hours or after taking a dip in the ocean.
If you do get a sunburn, the American Academy of Dermatology recommends taking a cool bath, popping a few aspirin or ibuprofen to help lessen the swelling and redness, and drinking lots of water since a sunburn draws fluid from the body.
Insects that Sting and Bite
One consequence of enjoying the great outdoors is being assailed by various stinging and biting insects that only a beekeeper outfit could keep at bay.
While many of these insects are merely a nuisance, for people who are allergic, they pose a clear and even deadly threat to their health. The American College of Allergies, Asthma and Immunology estimates that 2 million Americans are allergic to insect stings. That includes people who are at risk of having a potentially fatal reaction to the venom of certain insects.
More than 500,000 Americans end up in the hospital every year due to insect stings and bites, and they cause at least 50 known deaths a year.
Richard Pollack, a public health entomologist and instructor at the Harvard School of Public Health, says it's imperative for those who are allergic to insect stings to carry around an epi-pen, which can be used to easily inject epinephrine to help ease a severe allergic reaction.
"It does you no good to have it in your medicine cabinet if you're out and about [and get stung]," said Pollack.
In addition to life-threatening reactions from bee or wasp stings, warmer weather also means ticks will be actively looking for a host to feed off. Ticks can carry multiple diseases, including Lyme disease or Rocky Mountain spotted fever. In extremely rare cases their saliva can even lead to temporarily paralysis.
"If you're going to enjoy the outdoors, even just a backyard barbecue, you run some risk of acquiring a tick," said Pollack. "At the end of the day, do a tick check on yourself, children and even your pets."
In cases of paralysis caused by tick saliva, once the tick is removed the paralysis will quickly dissipate.
To keep insects at bay during the spring and summer months, Pollack recommends using an insect repellent when outdoors and putting screens over your windows to keep out pests such as mosquitoes.