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The Woes of Summer: Seasonal Hazards to Avoid

Who doesn’t love summer? For those three blissful months, it’s perfectly okay to wear a sexy, strappy dress during the daytime, to read trashy novels by the pound (beach reads!), and to consider ice cream its own food group. But summer fun is quickly dampened by a case of Lyme disease, poison oak or ivy, or food poisoning. Learn how to prepare for seasonal hazards before they make you glum, beach bum. 

Lyme Disease

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If you’re spending a lot of time in grassy and heavily wooded areas, watch out for ticks. They carry the bacteria that causes Lyme disease and can pass it to humans. Check your body for ticks and their distinctive bites—they look like bull’s eyes—regularly, and see a doctor immediately if you see a tick or bite, or if you experience flulike symptoms. If you are diagnosed with Lyme disease and treat it immediately with antibiotics, you can recover completely. But if you let it go untreated too long, it may become chronic. _Photo source: Wikimedia Commons_

Poison Oak, Poison Ivy, and Sumac

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Each of these plants contains uruhiol oil, allergic reactions to which are the most common kind in the United States. Be careful of shiny leaves, as this means they probably carry the allergenic resin, during hikes or when you’re in your backyard. If you do come into contact, wash with rubbing alcohol or a special poison ivy cleanser like Tecnu to remove the oil and prevent a rash from developing. _Photo source: Wikimedia Commons_

Bug Bites

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Bug bites are part and parcel of the whole summer experience, and they’re usually nothing to worry about. But they’re annoying and can become serious, so you should try to avoid them as much as you can. Wear bug repellent when you plan to spend long periods of time outside, especially around dusk when mosquitoes are most likely to attack. Avoid areas of stagnant water and empty birdbaths if you have them. When you get a bite, try not to scratch, as that can cause the skin to become infected. And if you start to develop flulike symptoms, visit a doctor, as this may be an indication of West Nile Virus, which is transmitted to humans by mosquitoes. _Photo source: Wikimedia Commons_

Insect Stings

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Catch a buzz from your margarita, not a bee. While bee stings are harmless though painful for the general population, for those who are allergic, the sting is life threatening. Yellow jackets and wasps also have very painful stings and, unlike bees, they can sting repeatedly. To avoid being stung, don’t wear strong perfumes or brightly colored clothing, and don’t sit outside with sugary food and drinks, as these can all attract bees. If a bee or wasp flies near you, stay still and don’t swat at it. And most importantly, if you know you are allergic to bees, carry your EpiPen with you at all times. _Photo source: Wikimedia Commons_

Heat and Ocean Rash

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Summer may be the itchiest season, and poison ivy isn’t the only cause. Being outside in the heat and swimming in the ocean can give you rashes, too. Heat rash—also called prickly heat—occurs when sweat ducts become clogged and sweat gets trapped inside, causing inflammation. Prevent it by wearing loose clothing and avoiding heavy creams or lotions to make sure skin can breathe. Ocean itch, another common summer skin condition, is intensely itchy and is caused by contact with “tiny thimble” jellyfish or their larvae. Wash thoroughly after bathing in the ocean and see a doctor if you develop a particularly itchy, large, or persistent rash. _Photo source: Wikimedia Commons_

Heat Stroke

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Heat stroke, or sun stroke, is the opposite of hypothermia. Instead of your body being too cold, with heat stroke, it gets too hot. Symptoms include skin that is hot to the touch, dehydration, and difficult breathing. Avoid vigorous exercise in hot and humid weather, and drink tons of water and sports drinks. And keep in mind that heat stroke is a true medical emergency that can be fatal, so call 911 right away if you or someone around you starts to experience symptoms. Photo source: SachaW (cc)

Food Illnesses

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Reports of food-borne illnesses soar during the summer months because temperatures are warmer and transporting picnic dishes allows plenty of time for food to spoil. Food poisoning is usually just uncomfortable, but it can turn deadly, so take precautions against it. Don’t leave meat out on the counter to defrost, and if you do go on a picnic, avoid mayonnaise, eggs, milk, and undercooked meat, as these all spoil very quickly in the hot summer sun. _Photo source: Wikimedia Commons_

Broken Bones

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Ah, the broken bones of summer! When you’re being active outdoors (and quenching your thirst with cold beer, perhaps), there’s ample opportunity to take a bad fall and break something. The only way to prevent accidents that lead to broken bones is to be cautious. Wear helmets and pads when biking or rollerblading outdoors and try not to overdo the alcohol to the point where you’re (literally) falling-down drunk. Photo source: Just some dust (cc)

Dehydration

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Your body needs plenty of fluid and certain minerals to keep going, and both are depleted quickly when you sweat a lot. Take a huge bottle of water with you wherever you go and keep sipping. If you start to feel weak, dizzy, nauseous, or crampy, chug a sports drink to replace electrolytes quickly. Any sign of mental confusion along with these symptoms merits a trip to the emergency room. Photo source: Klearchos Kapoutsis (cc)

Sunburns

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Just like bug bites, sunburns are an inherent part of summer. They may not seem like such a big deal when you get them—although a very bad sunburn is among the most uncomfortable things on this planet—but sunburns can do plenty of damage in the long term. They can lead to skin cancer, wrinkles, and scaly skin patches called actinic keratoses. The best prevention is always sunblock, sunblock, sunblock. Photo source: holisticmonkey (cc)

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