by Joanna Lei & Styvalizh Uribe
Graphic by Styvalizh Uribe
As summer break approaches, students need to remember to stay safe and healthy during the coming sweltering days.
Summer temperatures have been increasing because of global warming. According to nationalgeographic.com, “sunlight shines onto the Earth’s surface, where it is absorbed and then radiates back into the atmosphere as heat. In the atmosphere, ‘greenhouse’ gases trap some of this heat, and the rest escapes into space.”
“The more greenhouse gases are in the atmosphere the more heat gets trapped.” This causes Earth’s atmosphere to have an increase in temperature and directly impacts us by producing hotter summers.
Global warming has caused more intense heat waves. According to ucsusa.org, “scientists expect heat waves to become more frequent and severe as global warming intensifies. This increase in heat waves creates serious health risks, and can lead to heat exhaustion, heat stroke and aggravate existing medical conditions.”
Poor air quality also comes with the summer heat, so people with asthma need to be cautious by staying indoors during the hottest hours of the day, or if humidity is high. Even people without asthma should stay indoors during heat waves, but for those who want to have fun outdoors, it is important to stay hydrated, apply sunscreen and take occasional breaks.
Staying hydrated in a period of blistering summer days is crucial to stay healthy. According to verywellfit.com, “ Drinking water helps replenish the fluids lost by excessive sweating.” Those who do not get enough water may become dehydrated, and the combination of hot temperatures and dehydration can lead to serious heat-related illnesses. Symptoms of dehydration can include a dry or sticky mouth, lethargy and dry eyes.
It is crucial to wear sunscreen, not just during the summer, but every day. Melanoma is a form of skin cancer that occurs when melanocytes (pigment-producing cells) become mutated, giving rise to a new, unusual growth or a change in a preexisting mole. According to cancercare.org, “The sun’s rays that nourish and energize the human body are, unfortunately, also a main cause of melanoma.” Tanning at the beach is definitely not something one should do during the summer. It is also not effective to just apply sunscreen once; it should be reapplied every two hours.
According to Epa.gov, extreme heat events in the United States are expected to become more common, more severe and longer-lasting as the climate changes. Heat illnesses, such as heat strokes, heat exhaustion, heat cramps and heat rash, can lead to devastating results and cause more deaths than any other weather-related hazards. Each summer, “more than 65,000 Americans on average visit an emergency room for acute heat illness.” Therefore, athletes should drink plenty of fluids and take it easy during the hottest parts of the day.
With the increasing climate, food has also has an increasing rate of spoilage. According to fsis.usda.gov, “bacteria grow most rapidly in the range of temperatures between 40 ° and 140 °F, doubling in number in as little as 20 minutes,” which is often called the Danger Zone. Students are advised not to leave food out overnight. When temperatures reach higher than 90 °F, food spoilage increases exponentially, and to prevent this, food should not be left out for more than an hour. Spoilage bacteria will make themselves known in a variety of ways: the food may develop an uncharacteristic odor, color and/or become sticky or slimy.
Because of the increasing rates of bacterial growth, food poisoning has also become more common. Food poisoning is an illness induced by eating food or drinks contaminated with harmful bacteria or eating food contaminated with chemicals called toxins. Under the right conditions of moisture in the atmosphere, temperature and time, “a single bacterium can multiply to over two million in just seven hours,” according to safefood.eu. Symptoms include nausea, fevers, stomach cramps, headache and even diarrhea. In order to prevent food poisoning, it is advisable to always keep the workplace, tools and preparer’s hand clean and cool when handling food.
Students may also need to be wary of the Zika virus that is spread through Aedes aegypti mosquito bites. According to miamaherald.com, the Aedes aegypti mosquito thrives in hot and humid climates, which describes Southern California’s weather. Although rare, Zika may cause paralysis and for pregnant women, it may cause subsequent birth defects. However, others may not experience any symptoms, such as fever, headaches and rashes, and if they do, it usually lasts less than a week. To be protected against those mosquito bites, it is advised to wear long pants and long-sleeved shirts when outdoors and stay away from standing water, where mosquitoes breed.
By recognizing the additional health risks related to summer, students and families will be able to stay safe and healthy.