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From construction workers, to landscapers, to lifeguards, there are preventative steps that can be taken to avoid summer hazards such as sun-related illnesses, bug bites, or dehydration. Variations of skin cancer are the most severe of the sun related illnesses. More common results of sun exposure are sun poisoning, sun burn, and blistering. Insects also present an additional hazard to the outdoor employee. While most bug and insects are harmless, some bites can cause dangerous diseases. Some insect borne diseases to watch out for are Zika virus, dengue, Lyme disease and malaria. When working outside in the heat and sunlight, employees sweat more to maintain their body at a healthy temperature. This puts workers at an increased risk for dehydration.  Employees can protect themselves from these summer-related hazards by following some simple steps

Skin Cancer

Among illnesses related to sun exposure, skin cancer is the most severe sun-related illness. Skin cancer is the abnormal growth of skin cells which is most commonly developed from exposure to the sun. Melanoma, Squamous carcinoma, and Nonmelanoma are the three types of skin cancer and are very different. These forms of skin cancer usually form on the scalp, face, lips, ears, neck, chest, arms and hands, and on the legs. Palms of the hands and soles of the feet are where melanoma normally occurs in people with darker skin tones. Most DNA skin cells are damaged by ultraviolet radiation from the sun. Skin cancer can start from not only short periods of exposure but often an accumulation of annual exposure and lack of treatment.

Sunburn/Blistering

“You can never have a good sunburn, but you can have a bad one.” No tan is worth the pain and suffering of sun burn. The term for severe sunburn is sun poisoning. The term sun poisoning was coined to more accurately describe the level of severity of this sun related illness. Beyond the skin damage of a sunburn, sun poisoning can be accompanied by flu-like symptoms like headaches, fever, and nausea. The full extent of sun poisoning may take up to two days following exposure to emerge. The appearance of blisters and rashes are also common symptoms of sun poisoning.

Lyme Disease

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The sun isn’t the only hazard outdoor workers can encounter. Bugs and insects are always looking to get a bite of whatever they can in the outdoors, so prevention techniques should be utilized when applicable. Lyme Disease is common infection that is carried by ticks. Symptoms of Lyme disease include fever, headache, fatigue, and skin rash. If not treated it can easily spread to joints, heart, and nervous systems which can ultimately lead to death. Workers in any outdoor space are at risk of tick bites.

Dehydration

About 75% of the human body is water, without which it cannot survive. Our body maintains its hydration equilibrium by using our thirst mechanism to tell us when to increase fluid intake. Water is lost throughout the day through our breath, sweat, and other bodily excretions. Early symptoms of dehydration include dry mouth, lethargy, dizziness, darker urine, and decreased urine production. Dehydration can lead to drops in blood pressure, seizures, kidney problems, to other heat-related illnesses (see: https://my.stauffersafety.com/blog/heat-stress-symptoms-prevention-solutions/).

Staying Safe in the Summer

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The main way to avoid skin cancer is by staying out of the sun during the middle of the day from 10am to 4pm. The FDA also recommends using sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or greater to help filter out some of the damaging UV radiation. The best way to prevent skin cancer is to wear protective clothing such as light tightly woven clothing covering all exposed skin, and a hat that has a broad brim to block the sunlight from reaching the face and neck area, which are typically exposed. Protective clothing may be the best option, as it is not always possible to avoid the sun for most of the day. The same protective methods are recommended to avoid sun poisoning.

Protective clothing is also an effective method to prevent insect bites. Clothing, insect repellant, and sunscreen should be use in conjunction with each other to provide the level of protection needed. Outdoor workers should also thoroughly check themselves for ticks after leaving the hazardous environment.

Finally, beyond consistent hydration, there are other ways to keep one’s body hydrated. Food choices account for 20% of daily fluid intake, and there are many foods that can keep you healthy and hydrated. During the hot summer months, stick with raw vegetables and fruits like berries (87-92% water), baby carrots (87% water), peppers (92% water), and celery and cucumbers (95% water). Other foods contribute to your electrolytic intake, which is vital to staying hydrated. Salt helps your body retain fluid and assists with cell function. It can be found in foods like celery, canned vegetables, whole grain bread, cottage cheese, or broth-based soups. Bananas, melons, avocados, tomatoes, and potatoes provide your body with much needed potassium, which helps with nerve function. Grains, nuts, seeds, and dark, leafy greens give you magnesium for muscle function, while dairy products, tofu, greens, and fish provide calcium, helping muscle contraction and bone health. Finally, if you’re in the mood for a bubbly beverage, opt for a flavored sparkling water rather than a sugary caffeinated soda.

These protective measures are universal, whether you're a construction worker or a kid on the playground. Stay safe and cool!