News | June 29, 2020

Summer Health Hazards

By By Greg Chadwick, Air Force Materiel Command Health & Wellness Team

Summer is a great time to be outside and enjoy the weather. Awareness of summer health hazards can help you prevent potential injuries and discomfort. Here’s how you can protect yourself and others, and enjoy the summer fun.

Lawn Mower Injuries - Before mowing, remove debris from the lawn such as rocks, sticks, or other potential flying object hazards.

  • Always wear protective eye wear, hearing protection, and closed toe shoes while operating the mower.
  • If the lawn slopes, mow across the slope with the walk-behind rotary mower, never up and down. With a riding lawn mower, drive up and down the slope, not across it, to avoid tipping over.
  • Do not allow children to play in the vicinity of an operating mower.
  • Never allow young children to ride with an adult on a mower.

Food Poisoning - Hot temperatures in the summer allow bacteria to develop faster in food with no refrigeration. Foods or food products with dairy, eggs, mayonnaise or meat can become hosts to the types of bacteria that can lead to food poisoning. To prevent food poisoning, follow the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s advice to:

  • Clean - Wash your hands as well as the surfaces where you'll be preparing foods.
  • Separate - Wrap raw meat securely and keep it stored away from other food items.
  • Cook - Bring along a meat thermometer. Grilling meat browns it very fast on the outside, but that doesn't mean it's safe on the inside. Steaks should be cooked to a minimum internal temperature of 145 degrees, ground beef and pork to 160 degrees, and poultry to 165 degrees.
  • Chill - Keep everything refrigerated as long as possible. Store perishable picnic items in an insulated cooler packed with ice, and follow the "last in, first out" rule -- whatever you're going to eat first should go at the top of the cooler.
  • Don’t keep any foods at room temperature longer than 2 hours-or 1 hour if it’s warmer than 90 degrees.

Sun Damage – Sun protection is an important precaution to guard against skin cancer and reducing signs of aging. To help protect your skin and eyes from the damaging effects of UV rays:

  • Use sunscreen -Choose a sunscreen that has sun-protection factor (SPF) of at least 30.
  • Stay in the shade between 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
  • Wear sunglasses that block both UVA and UVB rays to reduce the risk of cataracts.
  • Apply sunscreen at least 20 minutes before sun exposure. Reapply every 2 hours while outdoors.
  • Wear clothing to protect exposed skin, and a wide-brimmed hat to protect your face, ears, and neck.

Insect Bites - Mosquito bites can be annoying, but they can also cause serious viral diseases, such as West Nile, Zika, Chikungunya and Dengue. To protect yourself from mosquito bites:

  • Mosquito-proof your home by using screens on windows and doors. Repair or replace all torn screens in your home. Close windows and doors, then use air conditioning when available.
  • Drain water where mosquitoes grow. Mosquitoes can grow in containers that hold water for more than a week such as pop cans, buckets, bottles and discarded tires. Fill holes that hold water with gravel or dirt. 
  • Wear long-sleeved shirts, long pants and socks to create a barrier between you and mosquitoes.
  • Apply insect repellent on exposed skin when you go outdoors. Use Environmental Protection Agency-registered insect repellants containing DEET, Picaridin, IR3535, or oil of lemon eucalyptus.

Heat Illness & Dehydration - Anyone exposed to high temperatures for a sustained period of time is at risk for heat-related illness and dehydration. Prevention is the best way to avoid heat-related illness. When it is hot outside, remember to:

  • Stay in air-conditioned buildings as much as possible.
  • Drink plenty of fluids.  Staying hydrated will help your body sweat and maintain a normal body temperature.
  • Wear loose-fitting, lightweight clothing. Wearing excess clothing or clothing that fits tightly won’t allow your body to cool properly.
  • Take it easy during the hottest part of the day.

Poison Ivy - Contains the plant oil urushiol, which can cause severe skin rash when any part of the leaves, stem or root is touched. Learn how to identify poison ivy in order to avoid exposure.

  • The old saying “Leaves of three, let it be” is a reminder of the consistent leaf characteristic of this plant.
  • One leaf centered on longer stalk, and two leaves to each side attached to the stalk.
  • Each leaf has three glossy leaflets, with smooth or toothed edges.
  • Wash garden tools and gloves regularly. It is possible to pick up the rash from plant oil that may have stuck to clothing, pets, and other items that have come in contact with poison ivy.

For more information on summer health hazards, visit or contact your local Civilian Health Promotion Services team. Comprehensive information on summer health hazards can be found on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website at