Our beautiful Southwestern Virginia summers offer a great opportunity to spend time outdoors with friends and family. Enjoy the season even more by taking a few precautions against preventable diseases and risks:
Food poisoning peaks during summer months due to warmer temperatures, which allow foodborne germs to thrive.
- Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and warm or cold water before, during, and after preparing food and before eating.
- Keep cold food refrigerated to slow bacterial growth. Cook food thoroughly and keep hot food hot.
- Use one cutting board or plate for raw meat, poultry, and seafood, and use a separate cutting board for produce, bread, and other foods that won’t be cooked.
Swimming and other water-based activities are fun and healthy ways to be physically active. As part of our routine public service for the community, RCAHD environmental health specialists provide annual inspections of local public pools. Keep these tips in mind to minimize the risk of illness:
- Chlorine kills most germs within minutes, but not instantly.
- Swim diapers don’t stop germs, poop, or urine from getting in the water.
- Stay out of the water if you are sick with diarrhea.
- If your body’s ability to fight germs is already affected by other health problems, check with your healthcare provider before swimming in oceans, lakes, or rivers, especially after heavy rains.
Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the U.S. and worldwide. Despite our mountain setting, skin cancer rates in parts of our area are higher than the state average. The good news: many types are highly preventable. Basal and squamous cell carcinomas, for example, are caused by UV radiation from sun or indoor tanning exposure:
- Apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen with a SPF of 30 or higher every two hours.
- Wear protective clothing like hats and sunglasses and avoid tanning beds.
- Seek shade during peak hours (usually between 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m).
- Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water.
If you see something new, changing, or unusual, get checked by a dermatologist right away. This includes:
- A growth that increases in size and appears pearly, transparent, tan, brown, black, or multicolored.
- A mole or birthmark that increases in size, thickness, changes color or texture, or is bigger than a pencil eraser.
- A spot or sore that continues to itch, hurt, crust, or does not heal within three weeks.
Heat exhaustion or heat stroke happen when the body is not able to properly cool itself. Follow these tips to prevent heat-related illnesses:
- Don’t leave kids or pets inside cars. Cars heat up quickly, sometimes rising 20-30 degrees hotter than outdoor temperatures, even with the window cracked.
- Pace yourself. If you stop sweating, feel nauseated, or faint, seek immediate medical attention.
- While drinks that replace salts and minerals lost in sweat can be beneficial, stay away from very sugary or alcoholic drinks—these cause you to lose more body fluid. Also, avoid very cold drinks because they can cause stomach cramps.
We encourage all residents to protect their health while they pursue summertime fitness and fun! By taking simple, common-sense precautions, we can steer clear of summer season preventable illnesses.