By Joel Delgado ’12 MS ’17
Head for the beach, fire up the grill and slip into your favorite flip-flops – summer is here!
And while summer ushers in a time of much-needed R&R, there are hazards that come along with the fun. Being aware of the dangers and taking appropriate precautions will help you enjoy your summer more and prevent serious health issues in the present and in the long run.
Here are some of the most common summer dangers in South Florida and how to keep them from ruining your fun:
1. SUN DAMAGE
High temperatures and humidity are always the norm in Miami, but even more so in the summer months, which increases the risks of dehydration, heat exhaustion and other heat-related illnesses. According to The Weather Channel, average highs in Miami during the summer months are in the upper 80s with August being the warmest month of the year.
To prevent sunburns and sun damage, plan physical outdoor activities during the cooler parts of day (the sun’s rays are strongest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.) and apply sunscreen with a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) 15 minimum. For extra measure, seek shade when you are outdoors and wear a hat and sunglasses.
With longer and hotter days, dehydration can become a serious problem. Staying hydrated and drinking enough water is vital for digestion and organ functions and, according to the Mayo Clinic, even mild dehydration can drain you of energy.
To avoid overheating and dehydration, drink plenty of fluids, particularly water, to ensure that you are taking in more fluids than you are losing. Also, there are plenty of water-rich fruits – like watermelons, cucumbers, strawberries and more – that can help keep you hydrated in the heat.
There is little doubt which insect is Public Enemy No. 1 for South Florida residents: mosquitoes. Not only are they a nuisance, they can also be a legitimate public health concern. Mosquito-borne diseases like West Nile virus, dengue fever and chikungunya have become risks for South Florida, especially with the latter spreading rapidly across the Caribbean since December.
To keep mosquitoes from pestering you this summer, the Miami-Dade Health Department recommends avoiding the outdoors at dusk and dawn when they are most active. Cover your skin with longer pants and socks. And wear insect repellents that include up to 30 percent of DEET.
4. EXTREME WEATHER
For South Florida, summer also means the possibility of facing inclement weather. From heavy downpours and lightning storms to extreme heat and hurricanes, Miami weather in the summer can be dangerous and unpredictable. On average, Miami receives 25.05 inches of rainfall during the summer. Two of the three wettest months of year are June and August (September is the other).
And, as of June 1, the 2014 hurricane season is now in effect. Although South Florida has not been hit by a hurricane in seven years, it is important to always be prepared.
Always check for weather reports before planning a beach outing or a picnic in the park. And stock up on food and key supplies days in advance of a tropical storm or hurricane to avoid long lines and additional stress.
5. FOOD POISONING
The Food and Drug Administration estimates that there are around 48 million cases of food poisoning in the United States annually. Due to a combination of outdoor cooking activities and rising temperatures, there is a spike of reported cases during the summer.
To avoid food poisoning, wash your hands and cooking surfaces often; keep raw meats and cooked meats separated; cook all meats thoroughly; and refrigerate any unused cooked meats securely and as soon as possible.
For more information on how to stay safe this summer, visit Student Health Services.