Surviving hazy days of summer


Summer is a dangerous time. Really.

What with E. coli potentially lurking in our burgers, broken bones from too much Slip’ n Slide, splinters from the deck that needs a fresh protective coat of stain, ozone stealing our healthy air, sunburns and skin cancer from lazy days spent sitting on the beach, heat exhaustion from working under the sun, Lyme disease walking around with deer ticks, drownings, traffic accidents, concussions suffered after spilling off a bike, fingers cut while slicing watermelon . . .

It’s just about enough to keep us all indoors.

We wait a good long time for summer to get here. It just makes sense to play it safe.

Warnings about water and boating safety are well known and most folks really do try to use caution while swimming, water-skiing, boating and beaching, but there are drownings every year because people are too comfortable in and around the water.

Maine, with its intense sun and year-round outdoor recreation, has one of the fastest-growing rates of skin cancer in the nation. While not totally preventable, skin cancer is one of those risks that can be mitigated with sunscreen and common sense about how much sun is too much sun. That tan might look pretty sporting now, but it won’t if it turns into cancerous lesions.

Who wouldn’t prefer barbecue every day? With that, though, comes a frightful amount of bacteria in undercooked meats and salads left out too long. E. coli reports, according Dr. Dora Mills, director of Maine’s Center for Disease Control, rise sharply as soon as those summer barbecues heat up. While a juicy, rare burger might taste good, is it worth the intestinal agony and potential hospitalization? You decide.

Lyme disease is a real threat, and one that is fast spreading across the country. Anyone who enjoys the outdoors is absolutely going to find ticks that may carry disease on themselves, so Mills warns it’s important to cover your skin when outdoors, check skin when you go indoors and clean skin thoroughly. While treatable, there is no cure for Lyme disease, so prevention is the best tool we have.

Ozone is one of those invisible dangers. For those with respiratory ailments, it’s more easily recognized, but it harms everyone. If it feels too hot to exercise, and seems too hard to pull a decent breath, it’s probably a pretty safe bet that it’s time to slow down and find some shade.

Mills’ summertime recommendations, and the recommendations of other health care providers, are really basic common sense, but they must be said and should be heeded.

Summer should be enjoyed, not merely survived.