Keeping healthy during the hot summertime means diligence and vigilance as the risks are numerous.
One such danger is lyme disease, contracted from ticks. According to Kari Prescott, Webster Count Department of Health executive director, ticks embed themselves in your armpit or knees, your scalp, the back of your neck or your groin area.
"Avoid the wooded areas and the long grass, because that's where the ticks live," she said. "If you're going to be out at night, wear longer-sleeve shirts and tuck your pants into your socks or boots so the ticks can't get on your body."
If you find a tick, remove it using tweezers, Prescott said. Do not use a match to burn it.
"Try to grab it close to the skin, where it's embedded, by where the head is," she said. "Don't squeeze it to kill it, just gently pull it out. If part of the head stays in there, like the mouth area, that's OK. Just take some disinfectant and clean it up. Antibiotic soap and water would clean that area."
Another concern is the mosquito-driven West Nile virus, though a case has not yet been reported in the county.
Getting rid of stagnant water is essential, Prescott said. Tires lying around with water inside them or toys left outside with old rain water in them should be cleaned and the water discarded. Otherwise, the water becomes a breeding ground for the pests.
"If you have a swimming pool that's had water in it, and your kids haven't swam in it for the last three or four days, get rid of that water and refill it. Especially the little ones," she said. "Stagnant, stale water is where mosquitoes like to dwell," she said.
It's a myth that chlorine kills everything in a pool, Prescott said. As such, waterborne illnesses are also a risk.
"Even your most well-chlorinated pool doesn't kill every germ," she said. "To help with those germs, we ask people that if their child is sick or has diarrhea or anything like that, don't take them swimming. If you're sick, don't go swimming because those germs are all floating in the pool."
Wash before and after swimming to eliminate germs, Prescott said, and don't swallow the pool or lake water.
Hygiene is also important. Children attending sports and athletic camps, for instance, should wash their hands regularly and shower daily using warm water and soap, and clean their equipment using micro-bacterial towelettes or diluted bleach, Prescott said.
"If you have wounds, make sure you cover them," she said. "If you have rashes or anything like that, make sure you contact the counselors or whatever and tell them if you have some kind of skin irritation to make sure it's not skin-to-skin, like MRSA or impetigo."
Caution should also be taken when attending fairs, especially around the animals.
"Animals can carry germs on them that aren't harmful to them but are harmful to people," Prescott said. "If you touch the animals, or even if you have your hands on a fence and view them, before you eat make sure you wash your hands. Because there would be some germs that can be transmitted from those areas."
She added, "The big rule of thumb is wash your hands before you eat. Hot, soapy water."
Food safety should also be considered. At the grill, keep raw pork, beef and chicken on separate plates to avoid cross-contamination. Keep cold foods cold and hot foods hot, Prescott said.
"Your biggest culprits are tuna, potato salad and egg salad," she said. "The most ideal would be to have a cooler with ice, and have those sitting in ice, versus sitting them on the picnic table. In this hot weather, in can get covered with bacteria very quickly."
The biggest problem during the summer, particularly for the elderly, is heat, Prescott said.
"Make sure you stay hydrated. If you're not used to being out in the heat, try to stay inside," she said. "If you have access to a fan, even if it's blowing warmer air, get some kind of air rotating in your apartment to keep you cool. Reduce your activities. Make sure you take your medicine as directed. And check on neighbors to make sure they're doing OK."
Children are also at risk of overheating.
"Children don't need to be bundled up with clothes. They get warm just like regular people do," Prescott said. "They can lay on a blanket in just their diaper in the air. Sometimes, a little baby powder will keep them dry so they're not sweating and get heat rash."
Heat stroke is not as common as heat exhaustion, Prescott said.
"Heat exhaustion is what you're feeling when you walk outside and you start sweating and your heartbeat will be rapid. Just get into a cool area, drink some water and give yourself a break on these hot days," she said. "Just try to stay out of the heat."