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Women's Health

How to Avoid Summer's Health Woes

Experts explain strategies for preventing 6 common maladies from ruining your summer fun.
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Poison Ivy continued...

Warning signs. Poison ivy can creep up on you, even if you wear head-to-toe clothing. "It's the oil of the leaf that's the problem," says Galier. "If you take your clothes off and you touch your clothes, you're going to get it." The "it" he's referring to is the itching and swelling.

What to do. It's time to get out the topical anti-itching cream again, like calamine lotion. "If you can suffer through it and it doesn't get worse, you can ride it out," says Galier. If it gets worse, you'll need to see a doctor for topical steroids or oral steroids."

Food-Borne Illnesses

"Food-borne illnesses are more common in summer for a number of reasons," says Linda Harris, PhD, professor in the food science and technology department at University of California Davis. "If the temperature is higher, there is more opportunity for temperature abuse of foods -- that is leaving them in the danger zone, which is anything above 40 and below 140 degrees. In this range, microorganisms that cause food-borne disease can multiply."

From the pasta salad left out all afternoon on the Fourth of July, to a turkey and mayo sandwich in your backpack on a 3-mile hike up a mountain on a warm day, to simply driving from the grocery store to your home in the sweltering heat, summertime foods are a breeding ground for trouble -- and bacteria.

How to avoid it. "There are four basic rules for preventing food-borne illness: cook, clean, chill, and separate -- and these become important during summer," says Harris, who is a scientific communicator with the Institute of Food Technologists.

First, she recommends, use a thermometer when cooking so you know your food is adequately heated.

Second, "when you are outside, it's always best to wash with soap and water. But if you can't, bring sanitizing handy wipes so you can clean your hands after you handle food," Harris tells WebMD.

Third, "if you are going to a picnic, use a cooler where you can maintain food in a cool temperature," says Harris. "Don't use it to make things cold, but to keep things cold. Remember to bring enough ice, as well. If you can't use a cooler, like on a hike, bring foods that don't need refrigeration. Or freeze your foods, so when you are ready to eat them, they're thawed out."

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