The summer is a time of sunshine, water fights and long evenings – well, if you live anywhere other than the UK that is. However, the warmer climate can also bring about harmful bacteria and bugs to watch out for, especially when travelling. Here are my top tips on how to stay healthy over the BBQ season and which bacteria to avoid.
Bacteria live literally everywhere. In the soil? Check. In the air? Check. On your skin right now? You got it – although not all of them are out to kill you.
During the summer months though, when the climate is (usually) warmer, bacteria thrive and continue to replicate – ready and waiting to ruin your holiday fun.
Some are worse than others, and most are relatively rare, but there are definitely some to keep in mind over the summer.
So, from E. coli on your burgers, to poison ivy on the trees, here’s what to avoid if you want to keep healthy throughout your holidays.
Put simply: make sure meat is cooked all the way through – even burgers. Bacteria such as Campylobacter, E. coli and salmonella can all live in raw meat so it is vital that, if you want to avoid accidentally poisoning all your friends or family, your meat is properly cooked. BBQs take longer to cook as well so, especially with meats like chicken or pork, it might be sensible to pre-cook them in the oven beforehand.
To many, mosquitoes are the devil incarnate – those annoying bugs that cover you with bites and cause malaria. However, mosquitoes are responsible for a lot more than malaria. Diseases such as dengue fever, Japanese encephalitis, yellow fever, Zika virus and West Nile virus are all also caused by those pesky insects, so remember to wear protective clothing to avoid being bitten – especially if you’re travelling in areas with high mosquito prevalence.
After a hot day walking around in the sun, nothing beats stumbling across a lake or river you can dive into and freshen up in. However, a lovely-sounding bacterium – known collectively as a brain-eating amoeba – could also be swimming in the warm freshwater next to you. Although relatively rare, Naegleria fowleri can enter the body through the nose, where it travels to the brain and unleashes its deadly action. To evade it, maybe avoid dipping your head under the water in warm freshwater rivers or lakes.
Most people are allergic to an oil in the sap of plants, including poison ivy and poison oak. For the rural explorers of the world, keep an eye out for this, as these plants become more common over the summer and encountering them can cause a painful, itchy rash. It is recommended to teach yourself what these plants look like before going away on any camping adventures this summer.
If you holidayed in Antarctica in just a T-shirt and jeans, you would develop hypothermia. Therefore, the opposite is true in hot climates – stay in the sun for too long and you will develop hyperthermia. This is a condition where a person’s body absorbs more heat than it gives out, usually caused by spending too long in the sun. To avoid this, keep yourself hydrated, use air-conditioning and find shade where possible – it won’t be worth the tan if you can only show it off in your local A&E department.
Talking of dehydration, it will be your kidneys that suffer if you don’t drink enough water during the hot weather. As you sweat, your body loses water and produces less urine than normal. Without replacing this lost water, minerals can accumulate to form harmful stones in the kidneys and urinary tract, which can be very painful to remove.
The summer may be the best part of the year for some, but it’s also one of the most dangerous. Harmful bacteria, bugs and diseases can be avoided though and shouldn’t be given the opportunity to ruin your fun in the sun.
Keep hydrated, cook your meat properly and be sensible – oh, and eat lots of ice cream. After all, summer wouldn’t be summer without a Mr Whippy or two.