Summer is finally here. We have a number of state parks and state beaches to enjoy, and many of the local farmers’ markets are up and running for the season. As many Rhode Islanders get ready for a vacation or enjoy a more casual pace, listed below are some reminders that can help assure a healthy and safe summer.
- Use bug spray with DEET. Bug spray can help prevent West Nile Virus, Lyme Disease, and other tick-borne diseases. Mosquitoes are most active at dawn and at dusk, so if people have plans to be outside at those times, they should be even more diligent about protecting themselves. Ticks are more likely to be found in grassy or wooded areas. Remind any patients who enjoy hiking or camping to tuck pant legs into socks and do daily tick checks on themselves and younger children. People who own pets who spend any time outside should also check their dogs and cats for ticks when they come inside.
- Check our Beaches Program website. From Memorial Day to Labor Day, HEALTH monitors the water quality of many of the state’s public beaches. Information on beach openings or closures is updated on a daily basis. Find regularly updated information on HEALTH’s home page (health.ri.gov). (Withing the white Beach Information box, click on More.)
- Don’t let summer weather get the best of you. Summertime heat and humidity can impact anyone’s endurance and hydration. If you have patients who regularly exercise outside, recommend that they exercise in the early morning when temperatures are lower and air quality is better. And as always, regardless of when or where a patient is physically active, drink plenty of water or other unsweetened, non-caffeinated beverages.
- Protect your skin from sun damage. Whether it is sunny or cloudy, using sunscreen (at least SPF 15, preferably SPF 30) is a must. Reapply sunscreen every three to four hours, after being in the water, or after sweating.
- Store and cook food to appropriate temperatures. Backyard barbecues are a staple of summertime. Make sure hamburgers are cooked to an internal temperature of 160° and any poultry is cooked to an internal temperature of 165°. Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold. The longer that a food item is left at an unsafe temperature, the higher the risk that disease-causing bacteria will grow and multiply.
Most of these prevention measures only take a few minutes to complete, and they can prevent injury and illness. May you and your family to enjoy the summer. Be safe, and be healthy!
Nicole Alexander-Scott, MD, MPH
Director, Rhode Island Department of Health
(The above text was slightly modified from the original written by Dr. Scott)