The return of warmer temperatures brings the opportunity for freedom, relaxation, exploration, and being closer to nature. Whether you're relaxing in the backyard, turning up your garden, hitting the pool, or exploring the great outdoors, here are some ways to help keep you and your family healthy this spring and summer.
Beware of Bugs
Warmer temperatures aren't just attractive to people, but to mosquitoes, ticks, and fleas. Mosquitoes can transmit West Nile virus , St. Louis encephalitisvirus , eastern equine encephalitis virus and even dengue; ticks can transmitLyme disease and other serious infections; and fleas can transmit plague.
To prevent these illnesses, use an appropriate insect and tick repellent and apply it properly. Prime mosquito-biting hours are usually from dusk to dawn, but ticks are out at all times. Young ticks are so small that they can be difficult to see, but both young and adult ticks hungrily look to animals and sometimes people to bite.
To keep ticks at a distance, avoid tick-infested areas (especially places with leaf-litter and high grasses) and use repellent containing 20% DEET. If it’s primarily mosquitoes that are the problem, CDC recommends repelling them with products that contain DEET, picaridin, IR3535 or oil of lemon eucalyptus. You can also treat clothing with permethrin (which protects through several washings) or purchase clothing that is pre-treated with permethrin. Always follow the directions on repellent packaging.
After coming indoors, shower as soon as possible and check your body for ticks. Make sure that your children also bathe or shower and get checked for ticks. Wash and tumble dry your clothing and check your pets for ticks. If you find an attached tick, don't panic, ticks are easy to remove with a pair of fine-tipped tweezers. Consult your healthcare provider if you develop a rash, fever, body aches, fatigue or headache, stiff neck, disorientation in the 1-3 weeks following a bite. It could be any number of illnesses.
Pesticides, vegetation-free play areas, and landscaping techniques for tick-free zones can also help limit your exposure to ticks and other insects.
Healthy Pets, Healthy People
While you're outside enjoying the weather, remember to protect your pets too. Keeping healthy pets will help keep you and your family healthy. Children can get roundworm and hookworm from soil contaminated by pet feces (stool), so make sure that puppies and kittens are seen by a veterinarian and dewormed. Protect family pets from ticksand fleas by keeping them on a flea and tick control program. Talk to your veterinarian for advice on the appropriate anti-bug products to use on your pet.
Dining Al Fresco
Nothing says summer like the smoky flavor of foods cooked out on the grill. When grilling, use a meat thermometer to make sure that you cook meat and poultry thoroughly. The era of medium-rare hamburgers is over! Ground beef should be cooked to an internal temperature of 160°F in order to kill germs found in raw and undercooked meat. Also, put cooked meat on a clean platter, rather than back on the one that held the raw meat, to avoid cross-contamination. Wash hands, kitchen work surfaces, and utensils with soap and water immediately after they have been in contact with raw meat or poultry. Whether you're cooking out in the backyard or on a picnic, always keep cold foods cold and hot foods hot. When you're finished eating, refrigerate leftovers promptly. For downloadable tips, see Safe Food Handling: Seven Super Steps to Safe Food In the Summer on our partner site, FightBAC.org.
Around the Yard
It is now time to seal up, trap up, and clean up to prevent rodent infestation. As you're clearing out clutter, fill any gaps or holes inside and outside your home. Eliminate or seal rodent food sources such as pet food, bird feeders, and garbage cans. Elevate hay, woodpiles, and garbage cans at least 1 foot off the ground, and trim grass and shrubbery within 100 feet of your home.
In the yard, remove any items that may collect standing water, such as buckets, old tires, and toys. Mosquitoes can breed in them in just days. You can reduce the number of ticks around your home by removing leaf litter, brush and woodpiles around your house and at the edge of your yard. By clearing trees and brush in your yard, you can reduce the likelihood that deer, rodents, and ticks will live there. Replace or repair torn window screens to keep bugs out of the house.
Gardening is a great outdoor activity for people of all ages. Stay safe and healthy as you grab your tools and head outside. Wear gloves, use safety gear when handling equipment and chemicals, protect yourself from the sun, and use insect repellent. Also watch out for extreme heat and know your limitations. You can also review and share with your love ones some tipsfor preventing heat-related illnesses.
Do not allow children to play in areas that are soiled with pet or other animal stool. Cover sandboxes when not in use to make sure that animals do not get inside and contaminate them with parasites that can cause diseases liketoxocariasis and toxoplasmosis.
Pollens and air pollutants can be triggers for allergic reactions and asthma. Some experiences include nasal and sinus allergies and hives. Asthma can cause recurrent symptoms such as wheezing, chest tightness, shortness of breath and coughing. Stay healthy by properly taking any prescription or over-the-counter allergy medicine and having and following an asthma action plan. Wearing a protective nose and mouth mask, or even sunglasses or protective eyewear, while doing yard work could help to avoid the triggers that cause allergy and asthma complications.
Fun in the Sun
Protect yourself and your family from recreational water illnesses (illnesses caused by germs or chemicals in recreational water) by doing your part to keep germs out of the pool. Do not swim when you have diarrhea, don't swallow pool water, take a shower before swimming, and wash your hands after using the toilet or changing diapers. Keeping germs out of the pool means a healthier swimming experience for everyone. Check the Healthy Swimming site's Resources page for helpful tools (such as videos, podcasts, and brochures) and "How To's," including how to use pool and hot tub test strips.
Prevent skin cancer. Avoid being outdoors during the midday if the sun is intense, use sunscreen with at least SPF 15, cover up with clothing, wear a brimmed hat, and wear sunglasses that block UVA and UVB rays. Be aware of the signs of heat stress.
In the Great Outdoors
When you're out on the trail, whether hiking, camping, or hunting, protect yourself from mosquitoes and other bugs by using insect/tick repellent. Wear permethrin-treated clothing when practical. Check your clothes and body for ticks daily. If you find any ticks, carefully remove them with tweezers. The ticks that transmit Lyme disease are most active in May, June, and July, but check for ticks in all warm months to protect yourself against other tick-borne diseases.
Just because a stream's water looks clear, it doesn't mean it's safe to drink. Giardia and Cryptosporidium are two parasites that you can't see, but they can make you very sick, so follow healthy swimming tips. Always treat or filter water to make it safe to drink.
Bats are fun to watch as they flutter around at dusk. In many camp situations, the mere presence or sighting of bats is common and normal. Sometimes, bats may be infected with rabiesand may pose a risk for exposure to humans. Remind children to never touch a bat. If you are bitten by a bat, wash the affected area thoroughly and get medical advice immediately. Whenever possible, the bat should be captured and sent to a laboratory for rabies testing. Follow instructions for capturing bats and reducing exposure while outdoors.
Enjoy the great outdoors. Have a safe and healthy spring and summer!