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Top 5 summer health risks and how to prevent them

Beaches, bikinis, a lot of beer – summertime is here and the living should be easy. Unfortunately, the holiday season is also rife with health risks. Here’s why, and how you can avoid them.

Over the holiday season, most people look to do something out of the ordinary. In South Africa, that invariably means travelling towards vacation hotspots, usually along the coast, and taking part in new sports and activities.

But busy roads, unfamiliar pursuits and a general air of relaxation can combine to cause accidents.

ER24 communications officer Russel Meiring says emergency services are generally very busy during the festive season.

“The public will start making their way to various holiday destinations, which sees an increase in traffic – this in itself will see an increase in the number of motor vehicle collisions,” he says.

Top 5 summer health risks in SA

Meiring says ER24 teams are regularly called into action over the holiday season to attend too:

  1. Drowning
  2. Heat-related injuries
  3. Burns
  4. Breathing difficulties
  5. Bites and stings

“Watersports are a lot of fun,” says Meiring, “but if you or your children are not experienced in performing them safely and correctly, they can lead to accidents. It is essential that you ensure there is adequate supervision.”

In SA, summer brings high temperatures and dry air: these can cause dehydration and allergy-related breathing issues, especially if you are unaccustomed to them, says Meiring. Stay hydrated, be wary of staying outdoors too long, and watch children closely for signs of allergies.

“Heatstroke is very common,” he says. “If left untreated, heat-related injuries can be serious and even lead to death.”

Heat-related injuries will present in four categories:

  1. Heat cramps (mild)
  2. Heat cramps (intermediate)
  3. Heat exhaustion and
  4. Heatstroke (severe)

“You can usually prevent heat injuries by staying hydrated,” Meiring says. However, knowing the signs of dehydration can help you prevent the problem from becoming dangerous.

A child who is dehydrated will have*:

  • Dry mouth and tongue
  • No tears when crying
  • Less wet nappies than usual
  • Sunken eyes, cheeks
  • A sunken soft spot on top of the skull (babies)
  • A listless or irritable demeanour

An adult suffering from dehydration will experience*:

  • Extreme thirst
  • Less frequent urination
  • Dark-coloured urine
  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Confusion

* There are different grades/degrees of dehydration and not all these signs have to be present. Obviously, the more severe cases will have more of the signs.

ER24 can be contacted for any medical emergency on 084 124.