Summer is just around the corner, and with it comes longer days, warmer temperatures, and plenty of opportunities to engage in outdoor activities. However, the summer season also brings an increased risk of exposure to zoonotic diseases and other environmental-related illnesses, which is just one of the many dimensions of One Health. So, we think it’s crucial for all of you to keep in mind the principles of One Health during this time of year.
In this blog post, we’ll discuss some One Health tips to help you and your loved ones stay healthy and safe this summer. From preventing mosquito and tick bites to managing allergies and preventing waterborne illnesses, we’ll cover everything you need to know to make the most of your summer while keeping your health in mind.
Mosquitoes and tropical diseases:
An increased presence of mosquitoes during the summer:
Mosquitoes are one of the most common pests during the summer season (we are located in the swamp, we know). The warm temperatures and high humidity (sounds familiar gators?) provide ideal breeding conditions for mosquitoes. And with more people spending time outside during the summer, the chances of getting bitten increase by a lot.
Common tropical diseases transmitted by mosquitoes:
Mosquitoes are known to transmit a variety of tropical diseases, such as dengue fever, malaria, chikungunya, and Zika among others. If you read one of our latest blog posts, you already know that these diseases are most prevalent in tropical and subtropical regions, but due to climate change and international travel, they have spread to other parts of the world.
Tips for preventing mosquito bites:
To prevent mosquito bites it is recommended to wear long-sleeved shirts and pants (you can even find some clothes already treated with bug repellent), especially during dawn and dusk when mosquitoes are most active. Applying insect repellent with DEET, picaridin, or some essential oils is also said to be effective. Additionally (and very importantly), removing standing water around your home can eliminate mosquito breeding sites, effectively reducing their populations near your house.
Remember, prevention is key to avoiding mosquito-borne diseases. By taking the necessary precautions, you can protect yourself and your loved ones from these dangerous illnesses.
Ticks and Lyme disease
Ticks are small arachnids that are known to transmit a range of diseases to humans, including Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, and Babesiosis. During the summer months, ticks are especially prevalent, as they thrive in warm and humid environments.
Increased risk of tick bites during the summer:
Ticks are often found in wooded areas, grassy fields, and climbing on curious pets exploring the outdoors. Ticks are known to latch onto humans for an extended period, increasing the chance of transmitting diseases.
What is Lyme disease?
Lyme disease is the most common tick-borne illness in the United States, with over 30,000 cases reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) each year. Symptoms of Lyme disease include fever, headache, fatigue, and a characteristic bull’s-eye rash. If left untreated, Lyme disease can lead to severe joint pain and neurological issues.
Tips for preventing tick bites:
To prevent tick bites during the summer, it’s essential to take preventive measures such as:
- Wearing long-sleeved clothing, pants, and closed-toe shoes
- Using insect repellent containing DEET
- Avoiding areas with high grass or leaf litter
- Checking pets for ticks regularly (skin folds, ears, and belly)
- Showering within two hours of spending time outdoors to wash off ticks that may be on the skin.
By taking these precautions, individuals can lower their risk of tick bites and Lyme disease during summer months.
Allergies and air quality
Yes, summer is synonymous with the great outdoors, BBQs, springs, and the beach, but also it brings with it an increase in allergens and air pollution. Poor air quality can have adverse effects on our health, particularly for those who are sensitive to allergens. Here are some tips for managing allergies during the summer:
Impact of summer air quality on allergies:
During the summer months, increased temperatures can lead to the formation of ground-level ozone, a major component of smog. Ozone can exacerbate respiratory problems and trigger asthma attacks, particularly in children, the elderly, and those with pre-existing respiratory conditions.
In addition, increased pollen counts during the summer can cause seasonal allergies, with symptoms such as itchy eyes, runny nose, and sneezing.
Common summer allergens:
Common summer allergens include pollen from trees, grasses, and weeds, as well as mold spores. Outdoor activities such as camping, hiking, and gardening can also expose individuals to insect stings and bites, which can cause allergic reactions.
Tips for managing allergies:
To minimize exposure to allergens and manage symptoms, individuals can take the following precautions:
- Check daily pollen counts and try to stay indoors during peak pollen times
- Keep windows and doors closed during high pollen times
- Use air conditioning, air purifiers, or a HEPA filter to reduce indoor allergens
- Wear protective clothing and use insect repellent when spending time outdoors
- Carry an epinephrine auto-injector for those with severe allergies
By taking these measures, individuals can reduce their exposure to allergens and improve their overall health during the summer months.
Increased risk of waterborne illnesses during the summer:
Summer is the time for swimming, boating, kayaking, SUP’ing, and other water-related activities, but it is also the time when the risk of waterborne illnesses is at its peak. Waterborne illnesses are caused by consuming contaminated water or by exposure to water contaminated with pathogenic microorganisms. During the summer, there is an increased risk of waterborne illnesses (again) due to the warm and humid conditions that promote the growth of bacteria, viruses, and other pathogens in water bodies.
Common waterborne illnesses:
Some of the most common waterborne illnesses during the summer include:
- Cryptosporidiosis: This is a parasitic infection that causes diarrhea, stomach cramps, and dehydration. It is spread through contaminated water or by contact with infected fecal matter.
- Giardiasis: This is another parasitic infection that causes diarrhea, abdominal pain, and vomiting. It is spread through contaminated water or food.
- E. coli infection: This is a bacterial infection that causes diarrhea, abdominal cramps, and fever. It is spread through contaminated water or food.
Tips for preventing waterborne illnesses:
The following are some tips for preventing waterborne illnesses during the summer:
- Avoid swimming in stagnant water: Stagnant water is a breeding ground for bacteria and other pathogens. It is best to swim in well-chlorinated pools or other well-maintained bodies of water.
- Boil or treat water before drinking: If you are not sure about the quality of the water, it is best to boil, filter, or treat it before drinking.
- Practice good hygiene: Wash your hands regularly, especially before eating or preparing food, and after using the bathroom or changing diapers.
- Avoid swallowing water while swimming: Swallowing water increases the risk of ingesting harmful microorganisms.
- Stay informed: Stay informed about water quality advisories in your area and follow the recommended precautions.
By following these simple tips, you can reduce the risk of waterborne illnesses and enjoy a safe and healthy summer.