Health and wellness

Be sure to apply sunscreen while you are out and about this summer. You should also layer up with light clothing and hats.

It’s about time to say goodbye to cold weather and get back to enjoying time by the pool and throwing a football in the yard.

In all the excitement to play in the outdoors in the summertime, health and safety are often forgotten. Some hazards go hand-in-hand with summertime, and they can do some serious damage to your health.

From the stifling heat to bugs, both flying and microscopic, some dangers come out of the woodwork when the temperature goes up. Here are a few things you should watch out for as you prepare for summer fun:

Sun protection

Protecting yourself from the sun should be an easy prevention rule to follow. Unfortunately, whether it’s forgetfulness or a desire for a golden bronze tan, putting on some sunscreen often takes a back seat. When summer hits, and even in the dead of winter, protecting yourself from the sun should be a high priority. The sun’s damaging UV rays don’t take a break, and they could lead to skin cancer. Protect your skin — and eyes — from UV rays with SPF 30 or higher sunscreen and sunglasses with 100 percent UV protection. Reapply sunscreen while you are out, and layer up with light clothing and hats.

“Skin protection is something that often gets forgotten in the heat of summer fun. However, it is important to wear sunscreen and layer up at every age,” says Dorothy Cuoto, administrator at Walnut Creek Skilled Nursing and Rehabilitation Center. “Sun damage builds cumulatively, so it is just as important to block harmful rays when you are 65 as when you were 5.”

Heat illnesses

When you’re heading out for some summer fun, don’t underestimate the heat. Playing a little too hard and drinking too little can end in heat exhaustion or heat stroke. Go outside when it is cooler — in the morning or evening — and drink water before, during and after exerting yourself. While you’re outside, get to shade and cool off right away if you experience thirst, weakness or dizziness. These are symptoms of heat exhaustion, which can lead to heat stroke and death if left untreated.

Food poisoning

Unsafe food can tie your stomach and intestines up in knots no matter the season, but summer is prime time for foodborne illnesses. The warmer weather helps bacteria to multiply, and a barbecue in the park can be a perfect storm if food isn’t handled carefully. Keep your meats separate in the cooler on the way to the park, and be sure to grill them to recommended safe temperatures. Don’t leave the potato salad and other perishable foods sitting out on the picnic table too long while you’re playing volleyball. Pack them with ice in the cooler promptly and don’t eat food that has been sitting out for more than an hour in the hot outdoors.

Bug bites

Bug bites are an annoyance, and they can also be a health concern. Mosquitoes can carry illnesses like West Nile, which can cause fever, headache and body aches. More serious symptoms can include mental confusion and even death. Only 11 people across Utah were infected with West Nile Virus in 2018, but the disease was found in 180 mosquito samples. The best way to protect yourself from West Nile Virus is to use insect repellent with DEET, wear clothes that cover your arms and legs, remove standing water on your property, maintain pools well and keep your windows and screens in good condition.

By avoiding mosquito bites at home and while traveling, you can avoid getting infected with West Nile Virus or other illnesses and spreading them to others through bites from new mosquitoes.

Summer is a fun time for everyone, and it can stay that way with the proper precautions. Take the time to protect yourself from the sun, heat and bugs as you venture outdoors. The extra time it takes will pay dividends, both today and in the years to come.

Dr. Amy Osmond Cook is a health care technology consultant and VP of marketing at Simplus, a Platinum Salesforce Partner.