Summer health hazards to watch out for during Memorial Day

A few steps to make long-awaited outside adventures a little safer.

May 26, 2017, 3:08 PM

— -- With Memorial day signaling the unofficial kick-off to summer, everyone may be ready to enjoy some fun. But the season can also mean increased risk for a few health hazards like sunburns, spoiled foods and insect bites.

Here's a rundown of the top summer hazards and how to avoid them.


One of the best parts of the summer is finally being able to bask in the sun. But too much sun can obviously lead to an uncomfortable and unsightly sunburn.

To enjoy the sun safely, the American Academy of Dermatology recommends using water-resistant, broad-spectrum sunscreen that protects against both UVA and UVB rays. The sunscreen should have an SPF of 30 or higher.

Experts also advise seeking shade from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., when the sun's rays are the strongest.

Water can amplify the sun's rays, so be extra careful at the beach or the pool. And be sure to reapply sun block every two hours or after taking a dip.

Spoiled Food

The start of summer means the start of outdoor dining season, including barbecues and picnics. But, food that sits in the sun can go bad quickly.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has a handy guide on how to keep food safe from spoilage. Any perishable foods should not sit outside for more than two hours. If the temperature creeps up over 90 degrees, food should be put back in the fridge or cooler after one hour.

Grilled meats should be checked with a meat thermometer to ensure they've reached a safe temperature.

Insect-Born Diseases

Insect bites aren't just a nuisance anymore. The rise of the Zika virus last year and the ongoing spread of Lyme disease have drawn attention to real health risks from insect-born diseases in the U.S.

In the northeast, deer ticks can spread Lyme disease via bites. The disease can cause serious symptoms like fever, rash or infection of the heart and nervous system if untreated. The tiny insects are also known to spread Rocky Mountain spotted fever and an extremely rare disease called Powassan virus that can cause neurological symptoms including brain swelling.

In addition to ticks, mosquitoes have been known to spread a few dangerous illnesses including the Zika virus. This year there has been no local spread of the Zika virus in the U.S. yet, but people traveling to areas where the virus was spread previously may want to take extra precautions.

To avoid bites from ticks, mosquitoes and other insects, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advise wearing long sleeves and pants when in the wilderness. Additionally, the agency recommends using bug spray with ingredients such as DEET, picaridin or lemon eucalyptus oil. The Environmental Protection Agency has a database of insect repellents to help consumers choose the best bug spray for their situations.

More information on avoiding bug bites can be found here.

Safety on the Road

Summer means plenty of travel, including road trips for many families. The AAA estimates that as many as 39 million Americans may take to the road on Memorial Day weekend.

Because of increased traffic, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration advises taking extra care when getting behind the wheel during the summer months.

Before hitting the road, make sure the vehicle is in good working order. Check for recalls on vehicles and their parts, have a tune-up and check tires and car batteries.

Take an emergency roadside kit, complete with cellphone and charger, in case of distress.

On the drive, make sure everyone is buckled properly, share the road with other drivers and stay alert.

As always, don't drink and drive. The NHTSA estimated that in 2015 there was one fatality related to drunk driving every 51 minutes.

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