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Summer may mean barbecues, swimming and enjoying time outdoors, but it also increases the risk of developing certain conditions or illnesses. The good news is there are several things you can do to stay healthy and safe throughout the summer.

Summer can be a great time of year. From swimming to picnics, warmer weather and longer days may mean spending more time outdoors. Summer is, for many people, the one season they look forward to all year. Yet the very things that people most enjoy also bring an increased chance of certain health hazards. What should you be looking out for this summer if you prefer spending time enjoying the nice weather to waiting in the ER for hours on end?

Heat-Related Illnesses

For some people, summer means sand, surf and sunshine. But hot weather can also lead to heat exhaustion if you are not careful. Exposure to hot temperatures, especially if you are exerting yourself, can lead to heat exhaustion. Heat exhaustion is a sign your body is overheating. Symptoms include rapid pulse, nausea, dizziness and muscle cramps. If you are outdoors in hot weather and feel any of the above symptoms, you should move to a cooler location, drink some water and rest.

In some instances, if left untreated heat exhaustion can develop into heat stroke. Heat stroke is also known to be caused by exposure to a hot environment but is more severe than heat exhaustion and body temperature may increase to 40 degrees Celsius or higher. Symptoms include rapid breathing, vomiting, headache and confusion. The condition can become life-threatening if not treated quickly.  

Food Poisoning

According to the United States Department of Agriculture, food-borne illnesses increase during the summer months.

An increase in food poisoning may occur because more people are eating and cooking outside, where safety controls, such as refrigerators, are not used. In addition, bacteria grow easier in warm temperatures. To reduce your chances of developing food poisoning, use a food thermometer when barbecuing to make sure food is cooked to the correct temp. Keep perishable foods in an insulated cooler with ice packs. If food is left out for an hour or more in warm weather, throw it out to be on the safe side.

Asthma

Asthma symptoms may also increase in the warm weather. Although, cold air can trigger asthma, some people develop asthma flare-ups in hot, humid weather.  In some parts of the county increased pollen counts and other allergens may also lead to an increase in asthma symptoms. If you are prone to warm weather asthma symptoms, talk to your doctor about using an inhaler prior to spending time outside.  

Sun Smarts

If you enjoy spending time outside in the summer, there can be benefits to getting some sun. For example, exposure to the sun helps the body produce vitamin D. In addition, sunshine can help increase production of endorphins and improve your mood. Although some sun exposure can be helpful, you can get too much of a good thing. Too much sun can cause burning and increases your risk of developing skin cancer.

According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, sun exposure is associated with about 65 percent of melanomas and roughly 90 percent of basal cell skin cancer.

One way to decrease your chances of skin cancer is by using sunscreen. Choose a sunscreen that protects you from both UVA and UVB rays, which are considered to be a cause of skin cancer. Select a sunscreen with a sun protection factor of 30 as advised by the American Academy of Dermatologists. Even if you select the right product, it will not do you much good if you use it incorrectly. Dermatologists recommend using sunscreen even if it is cloudy. Apply sunscreen to all exposed areas including your hands, ears and the top of your feet. Make sure you reapply every few hours or sooner if you are swimming.

When you spend time outdoors in the warm weather, it is also important to stay well hydrated. Increased temperature can cause you to dehydrate quicker than you normally do. Drink plenty of water if you are outdoors on a warm day.
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