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How to stay healthy during the summer

Summer travel and vacations to popular tourist spots can expose us to more germs.
Child getting its temperature taken
Posted at 5:10 PM, May 28, 2024

We've just passed the unofficial start of summer, but Dr. Barbara Bawer says it's not a time to take our health for granted.

Dr. Bawer is a family medicine physician at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.

"Just because we're past the winter months, which are the typical months when we think of people having flu and cold and COVID and all these other viruses, because, you know, it's colder and because we're indoors, it doesn't mean that these things cannot happen the rest of the year," said Bawer.

The CDC says enteroviruses, which come more often this time of year, can lead to summer flu or other infections like hand, foot and mouth disease.

Children are more likely than adults to become sick from enteroviruses, and most cases are mild. Summer travel and vacations to popular tourist spots can expose us to more germs that can cause sickness. One summer activity Bawer worries about is summer music festivals.

"You've had alcohol, potentially, maybe some caffeine to kind of keep you up longer listening to the music. Your immune system is also lower and so you have a much higher risk of getting these diseases. If you're screaming and your throat is dry, those are all risk factors," she said.

Summer activities like camping or outdoor barbecues also bring risk of foodborne illness commonly caused by norovirus or bacterias like salmonella.

Each year, 1 in 6 Americans get some sort of foodborne illness.

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The USDA says bacteria that cause these illnesses grow the quickest between temperature ranges of 40 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit. It says never to leave food out of refrigeration for two hours when it's very hot out.

"Ninety degrees and above, after an hour of sitting out in those temperatures, that's when your food will begin to spoil. Even if it looks okay," said Kenneth King, public affairs specialist for the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service.

Health risks should not keep you from making summer plans. Dr. Bawer says, "Going outside, taking a walk, breathing fresh air, all of these things are just as important."