Fun, food, festivities: How to enjoy the season safely

ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. -- For most people, summer means outdoor activities, traveling and food.

With the onset of picnics, ballgames, afternoon cookouts and those weekend trips to the lake or beach, it's important to keep safety in mind. Awareness of heat stress, food safety and insect protection are key to a fun and enjoyable season.

HEAT STRESS
Heat-related illnesses claim the lives of hundreds of people yearly. Heat stress can lead to heat stroke, heat exhaustion, heat cramps or heat rashes.

While each illness presents itself differently, general symptoms of heat stress include hot, dry skin or profuse sweating, weakness, fatigue, dizziness, confusion, severe headache, nausea, muscle cramps and elevated body temperature.

If you or someone around you begins showing signs of heat stress, seek shade and medical assistance immediately.

To prevent heat stress, it's important to take precautions when working or playing outside during the hot summer months.

If you feel yourself overheating, seek shade and hydrate. Drink plenty of water or other non-alcoholic beverages. Avoid sunburn, which increases the risk of skin cancer. Seek shade, especially during midday hours (10 a.m. to 4 p.m.), when UV rays are strongest and do the most damage.

Cover up with clothing to protect exposed skin. A long-sleeved shirt and long pants with a tight weave are best. Wear a hat with a wide brim to shade the face, head, ears and neck. 

Grab shades that wrap around and block as close to 100 percent of both UVA and UVB rays as possible. Rub on sunscreen with sun protective factor 30 or higher, and both UVA and UVB protection.

FOOD SAFETY
Foodborne illness is one of the most easily preventable problems of the summer months. The key is to protect food against possible bacteria growth. To do this, be sure to cook food thoroughly and keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold.

Hot foods should be maintained at 135 degrees fahrenheit or above and cold foods should be at 40 degrees or below. 

Here are some simple tips to follow:
-- Wash your hands before prepping or eating food.
-- When packing an ice chest, ensure ice is placed around your food. Alternate layers of ice and food.
-- Keep food packed until ready to use.
-- Once food is cooked, don't allow it to sit out for longer than four hours.
-- Keep food covered before and after serving to prevent insect infestation and contamination.
-- Keep utensils and surface areas clean.
-- Remember, preventing foodborne illness is easier than treating for it.

INSECT PROTECTION
With all the fun and excitement of outdoor activities, grilling, and travel, don't forget to prevent those pesky bugs from biting you. Not only are they annoying, but mosquitoes, ticks, and other insects carry disease that can make you and your family very sick.
The best way to avoid bug bites is to keep them off your skin. 
 
Here are a few tips to help out:
-- Avoid peak hours. Mosquitoes typically bite between dusk and dawn. Limit the amount of time you spend outdoors during those hours. 
-- Cover up! Wear long sleeve shirts, pants and socks while outdoors to prevent mosquito bites.
-- Avoid direct contact with ticks by avoiding wooded and bushy areas with high grass and leaf litter. Walk in the center of trails.
-- Check yourself and your family members for ticks.  Check hair, underarms, in and around ears, behind knees, between legs and around the waist.
-- Apply insect repellent on exposed skin and clothing when you go outdoors. Look for repellents with DEET, picaridin, IR3535, or plant-based oil of lemon eucalyptus.

This summer, keep in mind all the different ways you can protect yourself and your friends and family from heat stress, foodborne illness, and insect bites. 

Prevention is the key to a healthy, fun, and safe season. If you have questions, call Public Health at (478)-327-8019.