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Keep these common summer health risks at bay

April 16, 2010 12:28 IST
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It's the season for fun in the sun, but make sure you don't expose yourself to these hazards.

The summer months are upon us and it's a great time to be outdoors. It's all about fresh air, sunshine and warm weather. It's also about biking, running, swimming and many other activities that are perfect for the season. Summer brings fun and play into our lives, but it also brings health hazards. Most of them, however, can easily be avoided with a little planning and preparation.

There is nothing worse than a fun summer holiday that suddenly ends due to a mishap or illness. To prevent unnecessary problems and to be safe, here are a few things to keep in mind:

Skin cancer: Exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation is the main cause of skin cancer. These UV rays can also cause sunburn, tanning, premature skin aging and a decrease in immune system response. People who spent lots of time in the sun or have fair skin/hair or are over 50 years of age, are more at risk of getting skin cancer. If you or any of your family members are going outside during the summer, make sure to put on sunscreen lotion with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30.

Heat stroke: Heat stroke, by far the most serious and common summer hazard, is when your body has difficulty cooling itself down. During a heat stroke, you stop sweating and can become delirious, lose consciousness, and faint. Other symptoms of heat stroke include extremely high body temperatures (generally greater than 104 degree F), and short and rapid breathing. Heat stroke can lead to serious complications and the victim could die if not treated in time. Victims of heat stroke need immediate medical attention and while help arrives, the person should be moved to a cool or air-conditioned spot and covered with damp sheets. To prevent it, always wear a hat and light clothing when you are in the sun. Drink plenty of water and in general avoid engaging in physical activity outdoors.

Eye care: UV rays will not only damage your skin but will also damage your eyes, leading to cataract and age-related macular degeneration. So don't forget to wear sunglasses that filter out 100 percent of UV light to protect your eyes.

Headaches: Bright sunshine and the heat can trigger off a throbbing headache. In a severe case it may also result in dizziness, nausea, muscle fatigue and vomiting. To avoid such cases, remain hydrated and if symptoms occur, always take an over-the-counter medication to be on the safer side.

Bug protection: Summer is a season of insects like mosquitoes, bees and ants. Their bites -- apart from being itchy and annoying -- can be serious if they bring on infectious diseases. Bug bites can also lead to allergic reactions like headaches, dizziness, nausea or abdominal cramps. Prevent bug bites by avoiding buggy areas whenever possible, using suitable repellants and avoiding heavy scents. Wear long pants and sleeves to avoid the bites, but make sure they are not brightly coloured. Eliminate any standing water that may have collected to reduce the number of mosquitoes around your home.

Food poisoning: With the onset of the warm months, the cases of food poisoning also increase. Higher temperatures during summer can cause bacteria to breed in foods left out of the refrigerator, which can lead to food poisoning. Viruses and parasites can also lead to it. Food poisoning can cause nausea, cramps, vomiting, and even diarrhoea. Make sure you are consuming food that is hygienically prepared and always wash your hands before eating. Also, avoid eating outside food and don't let it sit in warm temperatures for too long.

Dehydration: When there is a loss of fluid from your body, it doesn't have enough water to carry out its normal functions. This situation is called dehydration. Dehydration can occur very easily during summer due to excessive sweating, especially when you are physically active or exercising. To prevent dehydration, drink additional water in hot or humid weather. In case of excessive sweating, consume electrolyte water such that it replaces vital nutrients as well. Avoid sodas, alcohol and coffee as they act as diuretics (elevating the rate of urination).

Pool and swimming safety: Swimming is a great activity in summer and helps you keep cool as well. But it is a potential source of water-born diseases too. A number of diseases can be contracted by playing or swimming in contaminated water. Don't swallow pool water or swim with an open cut. Do not swim in unsupervised areas and always shower after you climb out of the water.

These tips will help you easily avoid the preventable spoilers of summer and will make a huge difference in enjoying its wonderful, warm days in excellent health.

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