Skip to content
    Font Size

    Summer Risks vs. Realities

    The news media are so full of warnings about potential summer health hazards that you may wonder, as the season wears on, how anyone ever comes through unscathed.

    Summertime Epidemics continued...

    "The fatalities are predominately among people who have severe West Nile virus disease, and who are over the age of 50," says Sue Montgomery, an epidemiologist with the CDC Division of Vector-Borne Diseases.

    It's not possible to predict how bad an outbreak will be in a given area and to be able to guess at how great your risk is. "The virus hasn't been in this country long enough," Montgomery says.

    From January 2004 to June 21, 2005, 2,539 West Nile cases and 100 deaths had been reported to the CDC.

    Lyme disease is another summertime worry, especially for people living in New England and the mid-Atlantic states, where the disease is most densely concentrated. Warm weather sends people with bare legs out to hike and work in tall grass and underbrush, where ticks carrying the Lyme-disease bacterium await.

    In 2002, the CDC recorded 23,763 cases, and the numbers have been steadily increasing since 1991. Lyme disease symptoms can be miserable, and even disabling if not treated properly, but fortunately it's rarely fatal.

    Heat Wave

    At least once a year, many Americans hear that the National Weather Service has issued a heat advisory for their area. "Beat the heat" tips are broadcast, and city officials set up emergency oases for those without air conditioning at home. But how deadly can hot weather be? To elderly people in stuffy rooms, kids and pets locked in hot cars, and anyone overexerting themselves -- very.

    Three hundred people died from extreme heat in 2001, but from year to year the numbers can vary.

    A major heat wave in 1980 killed more than 1,250 in the central and eastern U.S., according the National Weather Service, and may have indirectly claimed the lives of as many as 10,000. More recently, more than 500 people died in five days during a 1995 Chicago heat wave.

    The National Weather Service uses a "heat index," which takes both air temperature and humidity into account, to determine how hot the weather really feels. A heat index in the 90- to 105-degree range means a risk for sunstroke, heat cramps, and heat exhaustion. The 105- to 130-degree range means that heat stroke, the deadliest kind of heat-related illness, is possible. Beyond that, heat stroke is considered "highly likely."

    Under such conditions, you should take it easy, spend as much time in air-conditioning as possible, take cool dips or showers, and drink plenty of fluids. Probably, no one will have to twist your arm.

    Hot Topics

    WebMD Video: Now Playing

    Click here to wach video: Dirty Truth About Hand Washing

    Which sex is the worst about washing up? Why is it so important? We’ve got the dirty truth on how and when to wash your hands.

    Click here to watch video: Dirty Truth About Hand Washing

    Popular Slideshows & Tools on WebMD

    disciplining a boy
    Types, symptoms, causes.
    fruit drinks
    Eat these to think better.
    embarrassed woman
    Do you feel guilty after eating?
    diabetes supply kit
    Pack and prepare.
    Balding man in mirror
    Treatments & solutions.
    birth control pills
    Which kind is right for you?
    Remember your finger
    Are you getting more forgetful?
    sticky notes on face
    10 tips to clear your brain fog.
    Close up of eye
    12 reasons you're distracted.
    Trainer demonstrating exercise for RA
    Exercises for your joints.
    apple slices with peanut butter
    What goes best with workouts?
    Pink badge on woman chest to support breat cancer
    Myths and facts.

    Pollen counts, treatment tips, and more.

    It's nothing to sneeze at.

    Loading ...

    Sending your email...

    This feature is temporarily unavailable. Please try again later.


    Now check your email account on your mobile phone to download your new app.

    Women's Health Newsletter

    Find out what women really need.