Don't let your fun in the sun turn sour

Simple steps can help you play it safe this summer


As summer looms, so do the opportunities for fun in the great outdoors, such as a hike down this hidden gem of a path near Posen. But, health experts warn, it's important to take proper safety precautions to make sure your wilderness adventures don't turn into a medical emergency. (CM Life photo | Lauren Rice | file)

As summer arrives, so do the safety concerns that come with the good weather and celebrations, including cookout safety, sun protection, boat and travel safety and tick-borne illnesses. 

Central Michigan District Health Department Medical Director Jennifer Morse said it is essential that people take the necessary steps to protect themselves in the summer.

“No matter how safe you think you're being, or how good you think you are at certain things, it is always worth the extra little bit of time or tiny bit of inconvenience ... to use safety measures to prevent illness or injury that could leave you completely disabled for the rest of your life or, worse,  kill you,” Morse said. 

Food Safety 

One of the aspects that CMDHD is focusing on is food safety when it comes to summer cookouts to prevent foodborne illness. 

The department gave some tips for people to make sure they are enjoying their cookouts safely including:

  • Practicing good hand hygiene. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggest scrubbing your hands for at least 20 seconds, making sure to later the backs of your hands, between your fingers and under your nails. 
  • Keeping raw meats separated from other foods. 
  • Investing in a food thermometer to ensure foods are cooked completely. 
  • Thawing frozen foods in refrigerator and microwave.
  • Keeping perishable food chilled. 
  • And conducting routine grill maintenance. Charcoal brand Kingsford suggests a four-step process that includes emptying any old ask from the bottom of the grill, cleaning the grates with a stiff-bristled wire brush to clear any rest or residue, preheating your grill grates before adding food, and oiling the grates to ensure food doesn't stick. 

The steps focus on making sure food doesn’t grow bacteria. Morse gave further tips about grilling hamburgers to make sure germs don’t spread. 

“Ground meat is higher risk because the germs tend to live on a surface of meat, and so when you grind it and mix it together, you're mixing the germs into the middle,” Morse said. “And so if you have a burger that's not cooked in the middle hot enough, it won't kill the germs that have gotten mixed into the middle, so people might not be aware of that.” 

Tick-borne illness

Another area where Morse encouraged people to be on the look out for is tick-borne illnesses. She said that while it is too early to tell the severity of it, it has continued to be a problem throughout the years. 

“Over the last several years, we continue to see more and more tick-borne illnesses happening, and I would expect that to continue,” Morse said, “So ... that's definitely something to just be aware of, and we can expect that trend to continue.”

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services also urged Michigan residents to be on the lookout for ticks, as it has seen an increase in the risk of Lyme disease across the state. 

According to the Mayo Clinic, Lyme disease symptoms appear in stages. The first comes on within three to 30 days of the bite and includes a limited set of symptoms that commonly, but don't always, include: 

  • A rash in the form of a single circle that slowly spreads around the site and looks like a target or bull's eye
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Extreme tiredness
  • Joint stiffness
  • Muscle aches and pains
  • Swollen lymph nodes

In stage two, without treatment, the illness often has the chance to become more widespread. This usually happens between three and 10 weeks after the bite. Symptoms include: 

  • Many rashes on other parts of the body
  • Neck pain or stiffness
  • Muscle weakness on one or both sides of the face
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Pain from the back and hips that spreads to the legs
  • Pain, numbness or weakness in the hands and feet
  • Painful swelling in tissues of the eye or eyelid
  • An attack of the eye nerves that causes pain or loss of vision

In the third and final stage of Lyme disease -- between month two and 12, post-bite -- symptoms may start at the earlier stages and escalate to arthritis in the large joints, swelling, pain and stiffness that lasts for a long time. 

Michigan Department of Health and Human Services listed a few tips on how to protect yourself from tick-borne diseases including: 

  • Avoiding tick-infested areas 
  • Using insect repellent 
  • Performing daily tick checks, and  
  • Bathing or showering regularly

Morse said that it is important to check your skin daily to make sure that you don’t have ticks. 

“There's just something to take seriously. And it's completely preventable. If you remove those ticks every day and you do what you can to prevent tick bites, it's completely preventable.”

Sun Protection 

Being out in the sun is, for many, a necessity when it comes to enjoying the summer. However, too much sun exposure can cause health issues, including skin cancer. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that people can protect themselves from the sun by using sunscreen, wearing protective clothing and staying in the shade. 

Along with that, the CDC said to plan activities either in the morning or late afternoons and evenings to avoid when the UV rays from the sun are the most intense. 

Morse said that people should make sure to always stay hydrated, especially when consuming alcohol. 

Boat and travel safety

The American Automobile Association projected that nearly 44 million people would travel around the U.S. during the Memorial Weekend weekend. 

That doesn't just end with Memorial Day, as last year saw record-breaking travel numbers. AAA projected 50.7 million Americans traveled 50 miles or more for the Fourth of July in 2023. 

During holiday weekends, Morse said it is essential to make sure to take extra precaution on the roads, including wearing a seatbelt and not using cell phones. 

Taking safety measures doesn’t just end on the roads; it also is important on the water. 

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources reported that “drowning is the cause of death in 75% of boating-related fatalities.” 

In order to prevent boat related accidents, the MDNR gives some tips including:

  • Wearing a life jacket 
  • Not operating a boat under the influence
  • Checking your boat for proper equipment and operation of things like navigation lights, ventilation, and first-aid and flotation supplies before hitting the water
  • Having a float plan that explains where you will be traveling and for how long you plan to be out; scheduled check-in times; and phone numbers for local emergency dispatch centers in case you don't return on time
  • Staying alert
  • Carrying a cell phone or marine radio

Having fun is oftentimes the priority when it comes to summer plans, but Morse urged revelers to take the small extra steps to ensure they stay re safe. 

“We all want to have fun,” Morse said. “A lot of times ... people don't want to worry about certain things, or … might feel like wearing a helmet ... or using a seatbelt is their own personal choice, or different things like that. 

"But a lot of these things don't take a lot of time, and really don't impair your ability to have fun.”