“What do you mean?” asked Shelly.
“Well, we planned a driving trip from here to Seattle to camp at Mt. Rainier and then at Olympic National Park. The first crisis was that on the drive we got food poisoning from some lunch meat that wasn’t kept cold enough in our cooler. That ruined about three days. Then my little sister got burned when my younger brother poured charcoal starter on a fire while it was burning.”
“Was she burned badly? asked Shelly.
“No, fortunately. But while at Mt. Rainier, we took a trail that went up the mountain and nobody realized how strong the sun could be when it reflects off snow at a high altitude, so we all got bad sunburns and I had snowblindness the following day.”
“Boy, some trip,” said Shelly, shaking her head.
“Oh, that’s not all,” added Rick. “After we got back, my little brother almost cut his toe off while mowing the lawn. Believe me, this summer will be different because we’ve planned a lot better.”
“My parents are real strict about who can use the mower, how to mow inclines, and wearing the proper clothing. I guess now I know why,” commented Shelly.
Summer is a great time for picnics, swimming, outdoor activities, and travel, but it’s also a time when warm weather woes can spoil the fun. Summer is the principal time for sunburn, heat exhaustion and heat stroke, outdoor cooking accidents, drowning, and insect bites. A little knowledge can go a long way to prevent these problems.
Prolonged exposure to heat, especially with high humidity, can tax our body’s ability to maintain normal temperature. Heat exhaustion occurs when the body loses salt and water, reducing overall blood volume. Blood is diverted from the vital organs to the skin and this can cause fainting, nausea, fatigue, and headache. People suffering from heat exhaustion continue to perspire, so their body temperature remains close to normal. Allowing the person to lie down in a cool place and drink water can produce rapid recovery.
Heatstroke, on the other hand, is a serious, life-threatening response to heat. The cooling system of the body has broken down, so there is no sweating. The skin becomes hot, red, and dry. The victim may collapse, experience delirium, have seizures, or lapse into prolonged unconsciousness — even die. Immediate hospitalization is called for and cooling measures, such as the application of cold water, should begin at the scene.
That “healthy: tan that was once so admired, we now know is usually a sign of unhealthy skin. New studies indicate that just one blistering sunburn in adolescence can double the chances of developing melanoma (a serious form of skin cancer) later in life. Your best protection against serious sunburn is to wear sunscreen and limit your exposure for the first time to no longer than 15 minutes. But, some summer plans place us in the sun for much longer periods of time. The solution is to apply a sunscreen with an SPF number of at least 15. If you are swimming or sweating heavily, reapply sunscreen every 1 1/2 to 2 hours, and after swimming. Keep your head covered, wear sunglasses, and wear a shirt.
If you do get a burn, apply cold water compresses or soak in a cool bath for 20 to 30 minutes.
Don’t forget to protect your eyes from the sun. As Rick discovered, exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light can produce a burn of the cornea, which causes severe pain, tearing, and intense sensitivity to light. When you buy sunglasses, read the tag and try to find “shades” that absorb 95 percent of the UV-B rays and 60 percent of the UV-A. If you will be in a reflective environment (sand, water, or snow), you need special glasses that block 99 percent of the UV-B and 60 percent of the UV-A.
A Grilling Experience
From the time you were little, you were told that fire could hurt you, yet you may do some pretty stupid things when it comes time to grill your hamburgers. One boy recently ignored all warnings and tried to start a charcoal fire with gasoline. The can exploded.
Here are a few tips on charcoal cooking:
1. Clean the grill before use to prevent flare-ups of grease.
2. Once it’s clean, line the bottom with aluminum foil, then cover the foil with an inch of ash to absorb grease drippings.
3. Set the grill on a level surface away from dry leaves and grass.
4. Don’t wear clothing that will hang over the grill.
5. Have water or sand handy in case of fire.
6. Use long-handled utensils.
7. Use only charcoal lighter or an electric starter to start the fire. Put some starter on the charcoal and let it soak in a minute. Then ignite coals by tossing a match onto them, but be sure your hand is not over the coals and never add more fluid once the fire starts.
8. Douse the coals with water when you are finished cooking and cover the grill, closing the vents. Never put coals back in a bag or box, even if you think they are cool.
A new summer insect problem has developed: deer tricks no bigger than the period at the end of this sentence. These ticks carry Lyme disease, and wood and dog ticks transmit Rocky Mountain spotted fever. If you plan to hike in the woods, begin repurchasing a good tick repellent containing DEET and apply it to your clothing and exposed surfaces.
When in the woods, wear long sleeves, tuck your trousers into your socks, then look for ticks when you return from your hike. If you find a tick, remove it immediately with tweezers. Grab it close to the skin and pull it out. Don’t burn it with a match. Treat the bite with antiseptic and watch for any rash. Be especially alert for a rash with a “bull’s-eye” white center, which is characteristic of Lyme disease. Also note any chills, fever, headache, or muscle pain following a tick bite and tell your physician quickly.
Be aware that pets can get Lyme disease, too, and may bring ticks into the house.
Summer can be lots of fun, but be aware of the dangers and plan ahead to avoid summer problems.