Summer is more enjoyable when you’re healthy

July 6, 2014 

Summer’s long, warm days invite us to live, work and play outdoors as much as possible. To stay healthy this summer and make sure you, family, neighbors and friends enjoy all the season offers, keep the following health and safety tips in mind. Because health is more than health care, consider following these safety tips and contact your public health and medical provider partners as needed.

COOKING OUTSIDE

Whether camping, picnicking or grilling at home, most of us will cook and eat outside during the summer. Basic food safety guidelines still apply:

Keep it clean: Start with clean hands and surfaces.

Keep them separate: Use separate utensils, cutting boards and plates for raw meats and fresh produce and fruits.

Cook it thoroughly: Use a food thermometer to ensure meats reach temperatures hot enough to kill germs: 145 degrees for steaks, 160 degrees for ground meats, and 165 degrees for poultry.

Keep it cold: Refrigerate perishable foods within two hours; thaw and marinate meats in the refrigerator, not on the counter.

Find tips on safe grilling and keeping your food safe while camping, hiking, boating and traveling at foodsafety.gov/summervacations.index.html.

PROTECT YOUR SKIN

As the days get sunnier, take the following precautions to help avoid sunburns and reduce your risk of skin cancer:

Avoid the hottest hours: The sun’s harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays are at their peak between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Staying out of the sun between these hours will help protect your skin.

Wear sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher: This is especially important for children and those with fair skin. Look for sunscreens with broad-spectrum coverage, protecting against both UV B and UV A rays. Apply sunscreen 30 minutes before you go outside and reapply every two hours.

Take your shade with you: Wear protective hats, clothes and sunglasses. Check the UV Index at epa.gov/sunwise/uvindex.html to see what the forecast is for overexposure to UV radiation in your area and learn what safety measures are appropriate given the day’s risks.

Protect your lips: Protection provided by lip balms varies from zero protection to SPF 30; treat your lips as you would the rest of your body and wear a lip balm with an SPF of 30.

For more information on skin cancer and sunburns, go to cdc.gov/cancer/skin.

ANIMAL ENCOUNTERS

Because we are outside more often in the summer, we are more likely to come into contact with wild animals such as raccoons or bats, or stray dogs and cats. Prevent possible exposure to rabies by protecting yourself and your family from animal bites.

Prevent entry: Keep bats and rodents out of your home by securing screens on your windows and blocking small holes on the ground or under the eaves.

Don’t handle wild or stray animals: Animals that are easily caught may be sick and should be avoided. If you are bitten by one, clean the wound with soap and water and call your doctor. You may need a tetanus shot if you are not up to date with your vaccinations.

If you are bitten, try to safely capture the animal: Keep the animal caged, especially bats found in your house (even if no one was bitten), until you’ve talked to local public health staff who, along with your health care provider, will determine whether you need to be vaccinated against rabies.

For more information on bats and rabies, go to cdc. gov/rabies/bats/index.html.

Being outside and being active this summer will help you be healthier if you take simple steps to protect yourself and your family.

Dr. Rachel C. Wood is the health officer for Thurston and Lewis counties. Reach her at 360-867-2501, woodr@co.thurston.wa.us, or @ThurstonHealth on Twitter.

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