You've waited all year for the sunny days of summer: 90 degree temperatures, weekend cookouts, and countless hours spent poolside, but it's not all fun in the sun. "While summer is a fabulous time for relaxing and having a good time, it comes with its own host of health hazards - from heat waves to potentially dangerous BBQs - we have to be on the lookout for various warm weather risks," says Randy Martin, MD of Piedmont Healthcare. Some hot weather health hazards may surprise you.
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1. Taking a Drink from the Hose
Most traditional garden hoses are made with polyvinyl chloride, or PVC, and potential cancer-causing compounds in this soft plastic can leech out into the water-meaning your swig of H20 may contain toxins. A safer option: Purchase a hose that has been labeled as drinking safe.
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2. Wearing Contacts
On hot and humid days, people flock to air-conditioned spaces to beat the heat, but these cooled rooms also create a prime environment for dry eye. When your ducts aren't producing enough tears, wearing contacts is not only uncomfortable, it's a breeding ground for harmful bacteria. Planning to sit in the AC all day? Slip on your glasses.
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3. Grilling Out
When hosting a backyard BBQ, it's important to practice good sense when using lighter fluid. To sidestep any fluid faux pas, cap the bottle immediately after using it, refrain from adding any extra douses on already-hot coals, and never use gasoline or kerosene as a starter. A better alternative to lighter fluid is to use a chimney to get your barbie started.
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4. Sipping Drinks Poolside
While indulging in fruity cocktail by the pool seems like the ultimate vacay, it could be riskier than you think. Alcohol significantly increases the likelihood of drowning: between 30% and 70% of persons who drown are found to have alcohol in their system. The typical effects of intoxication (impaired balance, coordination, and judgment) are heightened during sun exposure and heat, which makes swimming a struggle and could result in drowning. Make the smart decision to not sip and swim to avoid drinking and drowning.
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5. Attending a Summer Concert
The ringing in your ears after a stellar summer concert may be temporary, but it could lead to noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) in the future. Research shows that antioxidants, found in salicylate (aspirin) and Trolox (vitamin E), can significantly reduce hearing loss when administered up to 3 days after noise exposure. To avoid needing a hearing aid sooner, take an aspirin right after the show, or snack on some peanuts or almonds, both of which are high in vitamin E.
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6. Spraying on Insect Repellent
Before you reach for that bug repellent, be wary of the chemicals you're spritzing on your skin. Prolonged exposure to the insecticide DEET, found in many insect repellents, could lead to brain damage, which may eventually result in memory loss, headache, weakness, fatigue, muscle and joint pain, tremors, and shortness of breath. Try using a safer, DEET-free repellent instead, and be sure to light plenty of citronella candles.
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7. Splashing Around at the Community Pool
Scary but true: Many public pools are full of bacteria that even chlorine can't kill. Any virus on the skin of a swimmer can be washed into the water and can stay there for 1 or 2 hours before the chlorine kills it off. If you accidentally swallow some water, you are at risk of getting sick. Keep your family safe by asking pool maintenance how often the pool is cleaned and chlorine levels are tested, and do your best to avoid going to the pool on supercrowded days when more germs are likely to be present in the water.
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8. Cutting the Lawn
Tending to your yard can be a risky chore: Over 110,000 people are treated for lawn mowing-related injuries every year. Shockingly enough, you may end up in the ER for something as careless as neglecting to clean up the sticks in your yard before you mow or cutting wet grass. Stay out of the hospital by only mowing your lawn when it is dry to prevent slippage, and be sure to clean up your yard beforehand to avoid sending out-of-control debris into the air and your eyes. Also, don't mow the lawn in flip-flops or shorts, no matter how hot it is. Closed-toed shoes and long pants provide important protection.
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9. Swimming in the Waves
Powerful riptides can pull even the strongest swimmers. If you are caught in one, don't panic. Remember to swim parallel to, not toward, the shore to escape. Protect yourself by always opting for a beach with a lifeguard on duty, and check for water-quality advisories or beach closings before you head out.
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10. Picking Up Sea Creatures
Steering clear of dangerous sea creatures in the water may be common sense, but it's important to be careful of "dead" jellyfish on the sand-they can still sting! If you are stung by a nonpoisonous jellyfish, rinse the affected area with seawater and neutralize the pain with vinegar or isopropyl alcohol, then wrap with a bandage. Apply hydrocortisone cream two to three times a day to relieve itching and pain, but stop use immediately and call your doctor if signs of an infection occur.
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