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Health Bulletin Summer 2008

Beat the Heat

In Philadelphia, summer can be a great time to get outdoors. But, the heat, humid air and long days can be unsafe, especially for older adults and people with health problems. Know what signs to look for when too much heat is making you sick.

Signs of heat sickness may include: extreme sweating, nausea (upset stomach), feeling very weak, tired or thirsty, and feeling lightheaded or dizzy. If you have these signs, get to a cool spot and drink fluids. Using a fan and putting wet towels on your skin may also help. If the signs get worse, get medical help.

During hot weather, stay safe from the heat. Be sure to:

  • Drink lots of fluids.
  • Don't wait until you are thirsty to drink. (That means you are already dehydrated and don’t have enough water in your system.)
  • Be sure to drink at least 8 glasses of water each day.
  • Avoid drinks like soda, tea or alcohol because these make body more dehydrated.

Stay cool outside. If you have to be out in the heat, try to avoid the hottest times of the day (10 am-2 pm). Instead, try to go outside in the morning and evening (when it is cooler), and try to rest in the shade. Also, wear sunscreen, light clothing, hats and sunglasses to keep you cool.

Stay cool inside. At home, use a fan with the windows open or an air conditioner. If your home is not air conditioned, visit cool places like the library, shopping centers, a movie theater or a senior center.

Watch out for others. Be sure to check up on your neighbors or people you know who have medical problems (like diabetes or heart problems). Never leave seniors, kids, babies or pets alone in a car.

For help when it is hot, to find a place to cool off and to get tips on how to stay safe, call the Philadelphia Corporation for Aging helpline: 215-765-9040.

Stay Cool in the Pool

Pools are a great place to cool off on hot days. But did you know that people can spread germs and get sick from pool water if they are not careful?

Pool water is shared with everyone who gets in the pool. If someone with diarrhea (loose bowel movement) swims in the pool, they can contaminate the water (make it unhealthy). Diarrhea can spread to others who swallow the contaminated water.

Most germs that can make people sick are killed by chlorine. But, some germs can be resistant to chlorine and live in the pool for days.

To stay healthy, follow these simple steps:

  • Do not go in a pool when you have diarrhea.
  • Do not swallow the pool water.
  • Take kids to the bathroom a lot.
  • Change diapers in a bathroom, not by the pool.
  • Wash your hands after you use the toilet or change diapers.
  • If your child has a bowel movement in the pool, tell staff right away.
  • Take a shower with soap before you get in the pool.

Be Food Safe

Summer means picnics, barbeques, camping and travel. But, before you sit down to eat, make sure you know the steps to keep food safe.

Foods like raw meat, chicken and fish and unwashed fruits and veggies can have germs (bacteria or toxins) that can make people sick. These germs can also live on food that is left out for too long or on unwashed surfaces like counter tops and cutting boards.

Food poisoning happens more often in the summer because warm weather and eating outside makes it harder to make and serve food safely. Kids and older adults are more likely to get food poisoning because their bodies have a harder time fighting germs.

When someone gets sick from food poisoning, they might have an upset stomach, vomiting (throwing up), abdominal pain, or diarrhea. Sometimes it is hard to tell if someone has food poisoning because the signs may not start for days after eating the bad food. Sometimes the signs may seem like the flu.

Keep your food safe by following these four easy steps:

  1. Clean. Wash hands, cooking tools and surfaces before and after they touch raw meat, chicken or fish.
  2. Separate. Keep raw meat, chicken and fish away from other foods.
  3. Cook. Cook foods to the right temperature and use a thermometer to check. Hamburgers should be cooked until the pink is gone and the juices run clear.
  4. Chill. Food left out of the refrigerator (or above 40 degrees) for more than 2 hours may not be safe to eat. At 90 degrees or above, food should not be left out for more than 1 hour. Play it safe: put leftover food back on ice once you finish eating so it does not spoil.

Fight The Bite

Mosquito and tick bites can make you sick. These bugs can spread diseases like West Nile Virus and Lyme Disease.

Quick Tips:
  • Stay inside at dawn and dusk, when mosquitoes are most active.
If you are out when bugs are active:
  • Wear bug spray that has DEET.
  • Wear long shirts and pants to cover your skin.