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OHA offers tips to help stay healthy, safe from summer hazards as you head out for the Fourth

Oregon Health Authority

PORTLAND, Ore. (KTVZ) — The Oregon Health Authority is offering tips on staying safe and healthy as people head out for family gatherings, camping trips and other outdoor activities during the Fourth of July holiday.

“Here in Oregon, summer doesn’t really kick off until Independence Day, when we finally start seeing those regular stretches of sunny weather,” said Dean Sidelinger, MD, MSEd, health officer and state epidemiologist at OHA. “But with those long, hot days comes health hazards people should be aware of, and take steps to protect themselves.”

When summertime arrives, many people in Oregon head to lakes, rivers and beaches to cool off and recreate. There can be health risks related to summer fun such as harmful algal blooms at lakes, unpredictably cold water at rivers that can lead to hypothermia, and fecal bacteria at beaches. People camping and enjoying other outdoor activities can often encounter mosquitoes, ticks, bats and other wildlife that can carry diseases, and picnics with unrefrigerated food can be sources of foodborne illnesses.

There also are climate change-related summer risks, such as extreme heat and smoke from wildfires. And summertime activities may put some people at risk for excessive alcohol use or misuse of prescription pain killers or illicit opioids.

“Summer doesn’t have to be a bummer,” Sidelinger said. “All that’s required is simple preparation and a little bit of common sense.”

Here are links to tips for staying safe from summer’s common health risks:

  • Drowning prevention: Oregon’s lakes, river and beaches – not to mention backyard and community swimming pools – are great places to cool off and enjoy the water when the weather turns warm, but doing so means being mindful of ways to stay safe and prevent drownings and other injuries.
    • Avoid alcohol when swimming or boating.
    • Enter water feet first to reduce your risk of head and spinal injury, and paralysis.
    • Young and weaker swimmers should wear U.S. Coast Guard-approved personal floatation device (PFD) or life jacket for swimming and boating; never use swimming aids such as water wings, noodles or other water toys in place of a life jacket.
    • Swim with someone else and avoid swimming in bad weather.
    • Supervise children at all times in and near the water.
    • Drink lots of water to stay hydrated.
    • Take the time to learn CPR at your local hospital, fire department or recreation department.
    • Visit Safe Kids Worldwide’s swimming safety website.
  • Wildfires, wildfire smoke: Gases and fine particles from burning trees and other plant material can be dangerous if inhaled. Carbon monoxide is mainly a risk to people (like wildland firefighters) who work near smoldering areas. Smoke can irritate your eyes and respiratory system, and worsen chronic heart and lung diseases. The amount and length of smoke exposure, as well as a person’s age and health conditions, play a role in determining if someone will experience smoke-related health problems.
    • Avoid vigorous outdoor activity when wildfire smoke is in the air.
    • Stay indoors as much as possible and create cleaner air spaces.
    • If you have a central air system, purchase and install a MERV-13 or better filter before wildfire season set your system to recycle or recirculate the air.
    • No central air conditioning? Create a cleaner air space in at least one room in your home by purchasing an air filtration device or building your own do-it-yourself device with a box fan and HVAC filters. Don’t wait until smoke is near and stores are out of fans and filters.
    • When driving, run your car’s air conditioner on the recirculate setting.
    • Reduce other sources of indoor smoke and dust. These can be burning cigarettes, candles, gas, propane, and wood-burning stoves and furnaces, and vacuuming.
    • Visit (Spanish site: to find the current air quality.
    • If you have heart or lung disease or respiratory illnesses such as asthma, follow your health care provider’s advice about prevention and treatment of symptoms.
    • Stay hydrated. Drink plenty of water.
    • Visit OHA’s Wildfires and Smoke website.
  • Mosquitoes: West Nile virus (WNV) is carried by mosquitoes and can infect humans, horses, and birds. Humans can only get the virus from the bite of an infected mosquito; the disease does not spread from other animals to humans, or from person to person. Most infections are mild, with fever and flu-like symptoms, but severe infections may cause encephalitis (inflammation of the brain), and rarely, death.
    • Eliminate sources of standing water that are a breeding ground for mosquitoes, including watering troughs, bird baths, ornamental ponds, buckets, wading and swimming pools not in use, and old tires.
    • Protect yourself by using mosquito repellants containing DEET, oil of lemon eucalyptus or Picardin, and follow the directions on the container.
    • Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants in mosquito-infested areas.
    • Make sure screen doors and windows are in good repair and fit tightly.
    • Visit OHA’s West Nile Virus Prevention and Education website.
  • Ticks: Oregon is home to at least three species of ticks. East of the Cascades, the most common is the Rocky Mountain wood tick, which transmits Colorado tick fever, as well as Rocky Mountain spotted fever and tularemia. West of the Cascades, there’s the brown dog tick, which also spreads Rocky Mountain spotted fever; and the blacklegged tick or deer tick, which carries Lyme disease, anaplasmosis, an emerging infection called Borrelia miyamotoi, and several other diseases.
    • Avoid tick-prone areas such as brushy or wooded areas with high grass and leaf litter during the peak time of year—late March to mid-October.
    • Wear tick repellent that contains permethrin or DEET. A 2018 study published in the Journal of Medical Entomology found that permethrin-treated clothing can prevent tick bites by disrupting the insect’s normal movement.
    • Wear long-sleeved shirts, long pants and closed-toed shoes, and tuck pant legs into the tops of socks or boots.
    • Wear light-colored clothes to make it easier to spot ticks.
    • Frequently check your clothing, gear and pets for ticks, and remove them promptly.
    • After you get home, check your body for ticks, including under the arms, in and around the ears, inside your belly button, on the backs of your knees, in and around your head, between your legs and around the waist.
    • Visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Ticks website.
  • Cyanobacteria (harmful algal) blooms in lakes, reservoirs and rivers: Symptoms of exposure to cyanotoxins include diarrhea, cramps, vomiting, numbness, dizziness and fainting. Although cyanotoxins are not absorbed through the skin, people with sensitive skin can develop a red, raised rash when wading, playing, or swimming in or around a bloom.
    • Stay out of water that looks foamy, scummy, thick like pea-green or blue-green paint, or where brownish-red mats are present, and keep pets away, too.
    • Avoid high-speed water activities, such as water skiing or power boating, in areas of the lake where blooms are, as the major route of exposure is ingestion of water.
    • If you are unsure, follow OHA’s guidance of “When in doubt, stay out.”
    • Toxins are not absorbed through the skin, but those with skin sensitivities may experience a puffy red rash after exposure to water where there is a bloom.
    • Water activities such as fishing, camping, hiking, biking, picnicking, and bird watching can still be enjoyed when an algal bloom advisory is in effect. Boating is safe as long as speeds do not create excessive water spray that can lead to a risk of inhaling cyanotoxins.
    • Visit OHA’s Cyanobacteria (Harmful Algae) Blooms website.
  • Beach bacteria: Unsafe levels of fecal bacteria can cause diarrhea, stomach cramps, skin rashes, upper respiratory infections, and other illnesses. Children, elderly and those with a compromised immune system should use extra caution as they are more vulnerable to illness from waterborne bacteria.
    • When an OHA beach advisory is in effect, the beach is still open to the public. The advisory is to inform visitors to avoid wading in nearby creeks, pools of water on the beach, or in discolored water.
    • Avoid any activities during which you might swallow water, such as swimming, surfing, diving and kayaking.
    • Stay clear of water runoff flowing into the ocean. Levels of fecal bacteria tend to be higher in these types of water sources.
    • Wash your hands thoroughly before eating if playing in or around water that has above normal bacteria levels.
    • Keep pets out of the water during an advisory to prevent them from drinking the water.
    • Avoid swimming in the ocean within 48 hours after a rainstorm even if there is no advisory in effect.
    • Visit OHA’s Monitoring Beach Water Quality website.
  • Rabies: Bats and other small animals, such as foxes, play a valuable role in nature, but they can carry rabies. This viral disease of mammals attacks an infected animal’s nervous system. Typically, other animals acquire rabies by eating or coming in contact with a rabid bat.
    • Stay away from bats and do not handle them.
    • If you find a sick bat or other sick wildlife, contact your local Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) office. Take children and pets indoors and do not handle the bat or animal without protection.
    • Use a disposable container with a lid to scoop a dead animal into the containers and dispose of it in the trash.
    • If a bat has had contact with a human or an animal, call your health department or animal services for guidance.
    • Vaccinate pets (dogs and cats) against rabies.
    • Watch wildlife from a distance. Don’t approach or attempt to handle wild animals.
    • Do not feed wild animals.
    • Keep garbage in secure containers and away from wildlife.
    • Feed pets indoors.
    • Seal openings in attics, basements, porches, sheds, barns and screen chimneys that might provide access to bats and other wildlife.
    • Visit OHA’s Bats and Rabies website.
  • Foodborne illnesses: Warmer weather makes it easier for food to spoil. Cooking meats to a proper internal temperature, and keeping hot foods hot and cold foods cool helps reduce foodborne bacteria from growing.
    • Be sure to wash your hands before and after cooking, and after handling fish and meats.
    • Keep meat and poultry refrigerated until ready to use.
    • Don’t leave food out for more than two to three hours.
    • To prevent foodborne illness, don't use the same platter and utensils for raw and cooked meat and poultry.
    • Cook meats to minimum internal temperature to destroy harmful bacteria; 145 °F for beef, pork, veal and lamb (roast, steak and chops); 160 °F for ground meats; 165 °F for poultry.
    • Visit OHA’s Food Safety for the Public website.
  • Extreme heat: Excessive heat conditions can increase the risk of heat-related illnesses that can lead to heat exhaustion and heat stroke. These high temperatures can seriously affect the health of the elderly, those who work or exercise outdoors, infants and children, the homeless or poor, and people with a chronic medical condition.
    • Stay cool
      • Stay in air-conditioned places when temperatures are high, if possible.
      • Limit outdoor exposure to the sun between 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. when UV rays are strongest, and avoid direct sunlight. Try to schedule outdoor activities in the morning and evening.
      • While it is cool, open windows to allow fresh air to circulate, especially during morning and evening hours, and close shades on west-facing windows during the afternoon hours.
      • Use portable electric fans to exhaust hot air from rooms or draw in cooler air to help reduce indoor temperatures.
      • Wear loose-fitting, lightweight, light-colored clothing to keep cool and protect your skin from the sun, and dress infants and children the same way.
      • Use cool compresses, misting, and cool showers and baths to lower your body temperature.
      • Avoid hot foods and heavy meals; they add heat to the body.
      • Avoid alcohol or liquids containing high amounts of sugar.
      • Never leave infants or children in a parked car. Nor should pets be left in parked cars—they can suffer heat-related illness, too.
      • Avoid sunburns. Use sunscreen with at least SPF 15 when going outside.
      • Check on at-risk friends, family and neighbors at least twice a day.
    • Stay hydrated
      • Make sure your family, friends and neighbors are drinking enough water.
      • Regardless of your level of activity, drink plenty of fluids, even if you are not thirsty and especially when working outside.
      • Avoid alcohol or liquids containing large amounts of sugar.
    • Stay informed
      • Stay updated on the temperature and heat index when planning your activities so you can find ways to stay cool and hydrated. The heat index measures how hot it feels outside when factoring in humidity with the actual air temperature.
      • Learn how to prevent, recognize, and treat heat-related illnesses.
      • Visit OHA’s Extreme Heat website.
  • Alcohol, opioid misuse: Substance use, including excessive alcohol use and opioid misuse, can be a problem as people gather for summer activities.
    • When using alcohol:
      • Don’t drink and drive a car or boat. Plan for alternative rides or designated drivers.
      • Set limits. Decide how many days a week you plan to drink and how many drinks you plan to have. For instance, you might decide to only drink on a Friday night or Saturday night and have one drink. Schedule alcohol-free days every week. Create a plan with this interactive screening tool.
      • Count your drinks. Use an app on your mobile device to help. Understanding how much alcohol counts as a “standard” drink may also help.
      • Manage your “triggers,” such as certain people, places or activities that tempt you to drink more than you planned. For example, instead of a happy hour event with co-workers, suggest catching up at lunch instead. You may also want to remove certain alcohol products from your home.
      • Find support. Ask for support from a friend, family member, health care provider, or someone else who will support your choice to drink less. Call 1-800-923-4357 for free confidential support.
    • If you or someone you know uses prescription or illicit opioids:
      • Don’t use alone and always have naloxone on hand. Naloxone is an easy-to-use, life-saving drug that can reverse the effects of an opioid overdose when administered in time.
      • Stagger your illicit drug use; don’t use all at once in case there is fentanyl in your drugs and people fall into overdose.
      • Unless a pharmacist directly hands you a prescription pill, assume that it is counterfeit and contains fentanyl.
      • If you are in treatment for substance use, ask your counselor for help getting naloxone. You might get naloxone at no cost from a local program.
      • If you want to have naloxone on hand for someone else, ask your pharmacist for a prescription.
      • If you are actively using opioids and involved with a syringe exchange or other harm-reduction services, you can get naloxone at no cost.
      • If you suspect someone is overdosing, call 911 immediately. Oregon’s Good Samaritan law will protect you against criminal charges.
    • Visit CDC’s Drink Less, Be Your Best website or see OHA’s Administering Naloxone During COVID-19 fact sheet. Also visit the Never Use Alone website
Article Topic Follows: Health

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