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The Top 7 Summer Health Hazards

Beach days and BBQ dinners are great, but here's what you need to know to stay safe in summer, too.
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4. Sunburn Snafus continued...

In addition to practicing "safe sun" -- wearing sunscreen that protects against both UVB and UVA rays, long-sleeved shirts, and wide-brimmed hats, and staying out of blistering midday rays -- there are things you can do to treat a severe sunburn, Stanton says:

  • Drink water or juice to replace fluids you lost while sweating in the hot sun.
  • Soak the burn in cool water for a few minutes or put a cool, wet cloth on it.
  • Take an over-the-counter pain reliever, such as acetaminophen.
  • Treat itching with an OTC antihistamine cream or a spray like diphenhydramine (such as Benadryl), which helps block the inflammatory reaction.
  • Apply an antibiotic ointment or an aloe cream with emollients that soften and soothe the skin directly to the burned area.

"You're going to have a pretty miserable 12 to 24 hours with the initial symptoms no matter what you do," Stanton warns.

5. Picnic Poisoning

Food poisoning puts about 300,000 people in the hospital every year, hitting its peak in the summer months. You don't want diarrhea to be the souvenir of your family's annual summer picnic.

"Anything that has mayonnaise, dairy, or eggs in it and any meat products can develop some pretty nasty bacteria after only a couple of hours unrefrigerated," says Stanton. "Every summer we'll have five or six people coming in from the same reunion or family picnic with food poisoning symptoms."

To prevent food poisoning, follow the U.S. Department of Agriculture's advice to:

  • Clean -- Wash your hands as well as the surfaces where you'll be preparing foods.
  • Separate -- Wrap raw meat securely and keep it stored away from other food items.
  • Cook -- Bring along a meat thermometer. Grilling meat browns it very fast on the outside, but that doesn't mean it's safe on the inside. Steaks should be cooked to a minimum internal temperature of 145 degrees, ground beef and pork to 160 degrees, and poultry to 165 degrees.
  • Chill -- Keep everything refrigerated as long as possible. Store perishable picnic items in an insulated cooler packed with ice, and follow the "last in, first out" rule -- whatever you're going to eat first should go at the top of the cooler.

Mild cases of food poisoning can be cared for at home, Stanton says. Avoid solid foods, and stick with small, frequent drinks of clear liquid to stay hydrated. Once the nausea and vomiting have eased, you can try bringing food back into your diet -- slowly and in small, bland portions (Grandma knew what she was talking about when she recommended tea and toast to settle an upset stomach). If symptoms persist for more than a couple days (or more than 24 hours in small kids), see a doctor.

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