Staying safe in the summer sun

Janie Harris
Georgia residents Karen Parson and Mike Long relax under the cover of an umbrella to avoid being too exposed to the heat.

While many different health organizations stress summer health tips like wearing sunscreen and water safety, there remain some summer situations that could seize you if you are not careful. 

“It is important to keep in mind ways to keep your family safe and healthy this summer,” said­ DOH-Okaloosa Public Information Officer Ryan Mims.

Food-borne illness

While picnicking with your family and bringing a cooler filled with different goodies may be popular in the summer months, the Florida Department of Health in Okaloosa County, or DOH-Okaloosa, stresses that you should familiarize yourself with some food safety tips before packing your basket.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture, one in six people in the United States will get food poisoning each year.  DOH-Okaloosa suggests using two separate coolers for beverages and food and placing raw foods at the bottom of the cooler and ready-to-eat foods at the top. Also, only remove food from the cooler when you are ready to use it. Otherwise, food should not sit out of the cooler for more than two hours.

Heat-related illness 

With summer approaching, the warm Florida sun is sure to get warmer, and according to DOH-Okaloosa, elderly persons, children, those with medical conditions and those with weight or alcohol problems are at a higher risk of developing a heat-related illness such as heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Still, anyone can become victim of the heat.

“Make sure you know your limit when you are out in the sun,” said Mims.

The organization suggests that to prevent these heat-related illnesses you should drink more room-temperature fluids that are nonalcoholic and low in sugar content. Also, stay indoors in air conditioning to keep your body cooler even when you go back into the heat. When you are in the heat, wear loose-fitting, lightweight clothing, and try to stay in the shade or limit yourself to spending your time outdoors to the mornings and evenings when temperatures are lower.

Arboviruses (Mosquito-borne Disease)  

According to a press release by the DOH-Okaloosa, mosquitoes can carry harmful viruses that can cause serious illnesses. The Mayo Clinic reports that in parts of the world, some mosquitoes can transmit West Nile virus, yellow fever, malaria and some types of brain infections.

While contracting one of these diseases is rare and there haven’t been any cases in Okaloosa County, you should still keep an eye out for symptoms such as fever, muscle pains, headache and fatigue.

“If you get bitten by a mosquito and are showing some of these symptoms, you need to go to a doctor,” said Mims.

While the county sprays in different locations most weekdays, the DOH-Okaloosa suggests to avoid bites county residents should “Drain and Cover,” meaning you should drain standing water to prevent mosquitoes from multiplying and cover your skin with clothing and/or insect repellent as well as cover your windows and doors with screens. But “Drain and Cover” remains only one campaign pushing Okaloosa County residents to protect themselves from mosquitoes, another campaign being “SWAT.”

For more information and safety tips, see www.floridahealth.gov.

Okaloosa County Mosquito Control and The Florida Department of Health in Okaloosa urge residents to “SWAT.”

Stay inside with screened doors and windows when mosquitoes are biting (dusk and dawn).

When outside, wear clothing that covers skin.

Apply mosquito repellant that includes DEET on your skin when you are outside

Turn over standing water where mosquitoes lay eggs or better yet - rid your outdoor area of standing water in which mosquitoes can lay their eggs.  

The Okaloosa County mosquito spraying schedule can be found here.

For more information about mosquito-borne diseases:

http://www.floridahealth.gov/diseases-and-conditions/mosquito-borne-diseases/surveillance.html

http://www.floridahealth.gov/diseases-and-conditions/mosquito-borne-diseases/index.html

For more information about food safety:

http://www.foodsafety.gov/keep/types/index.html

http://www.foodsafety.gov/poisoning/causes/bacteriaviruses/index.html

For more information about heat-related illnesses:

http://emergency.cdc.gov/disasters/extremeheat/heattips.asp