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Health eTips is produced by the staff of the St. Charles County Department of Public Health. The department consists of three divisions - Environmental Health and Protection, Health Services and Humane Services - that provide a wide range of services focused on enhancing the well-being of this community.

If you have questions about the Department of Public Health or have suggestions on public health topics you'd like to see explored in this blog, please email us.

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Jun 07

Summer Safety

Posted on June 7, 2018 at 4:32 PM by Doug Bolnick

ADD SAFETY TO YOUR SUMMER PLANS


Memorial Day weekend marks the traditional start to the summer season. While many look forward to hours of backyard cookouts, lazy days at the pool, and other “fun in the sun” activities, the St. Charles County Department of Public Health encourages residents to think about safety this season as well. Following are a variety of tips and resources to help beat the heat, stay safe in the water, prepare summer meals and combat mosquitoes and other pests.


Cool Preparation Beats the Heat
thermometer to sun
Our summers are infamous for high temperatures and high humidity, a combination that causes many dangerous situations.

Approximately 100 Americans die each year from extreme heat, and many more suffer through heat-related stress. People suffer heat-related illness when their bodies cannot properly cool themselves. Normally, the body cools itself through sweating, but sweat will not evaporate and cooling doesn’t occur when humidity levels are high.

Signs of Heat Illness
The first sign of overheating is heat cramps or muscle aches due to over-exertion. The next level is heat exhaustion, which is a mild form of shock that shows with symptoms like heavy sweating, weakness, weak pulse and fainting. The most severe, and life-threatening, condition is heat stroke, where the body’s systems shut down and brain damage or death can result. Immediate medical assistance is necessary for cases of heat stroke.

To help prevent these conditions, take simple precautions:
  • Take frequent breaks, and seek indoor, air-conditioned locations. For cool shelters near you, please call the United Way 2-1-1 information line, or use this map.
  • Drink more fluids in warmer temperatures – don’t wait until you are thirsty to drink.
  • Avoid drinks containing alcohol or large amounts of sugar, as these may cause you to dehydrate more quickly.
  • Wear lightweight, light-colored and loose-fitting clothing if you must be outdoors.
  • Never leave anyone (or any animal) inside a closed, parked vehicle. Here’s a video showing what can happen in just a short period of time.


Screen Your Skin from the Sun

In addition to dangers from high temperatures, bright, sunny skies can damage your skin. Many consider a tan to be an attractive feature, but the presence of melanin (the pigment that colors the skin and shows off as a tan) actually indicates damage to skin cells. Exposure to harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays increases risk for developing skin cancer and other dangerous long-term complications.applying suntan lotion_CDC

To protect against sun damage, remember the Four Ss of Sun Safety:
  • Seek shade - Avoid peak periods (10 a.m. to 4 p.m. in our community), when ultraviolet (UV) rays are strongest.
  • Slop on sunscreen - Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of 15 or higher at all times. Apply about a nickel-sized amount of lotion to your skin and distribute evenly. Re-apply this sunscreen often — especially after excessive sweating or time in the pool — for it to remain effective. Be aware that sunscreen can expire within three years of purchase and should be discarded after this expiration date or if exposed to excessive temperatures.
  • Slap on coverage - Wear wide-brimmed hats, long-sleeved shirts and long pants that cover exposed skin.
  • Slide on shades - Wear sunglasses that block UV rays to protect your eyes from damage.


Splish-Splash Your Way to Water Safety

Spending an afternoon in a backyard or community pool or in the area’s many rivers, lakes or streams are rites of summer for many St. Charles County residents. Although swimming and other water activities are great ways to enjoy relaxing fun, it’s important to be aware of the many dangers associated with these activities.family in swimming pool

Water Safety
Statistics show that approximately 10 people die each day from unintentional drowning, which is among the leading causes of death for children aged 1 to 14. To prevent water-related injuries, consider these safety tips:
  • Teach children to swim at an early age.
  • Always swim with a buddy and have a responsible adult supervise children who are in or around water.
  • Recognize that “water wings”, foam noodles and other floats do not replace life jackets as personal safety devices.
  • Avoid alcohol when swimming, boating or waterskiing. Do not drink alcohol while supervising children who are swimming.

Water Illness
In addition to safe practices, Recreational Water Illnesses (RWI)can cause gastrointestinal, skin, ear, eye and other complications. Routine cleaning and maintaining balanced pH levels (typically between 7.2 and 7.8) are effective in controlling these germs. To further prevent RWI, swimmers should not swallow pool water, shower and wash hand-washing before and after entering the pool, and stay home from pools when they are ill.

Here are a few RWI concerns:

Clean Water
To protect against RWI and promote safe practices, many municipal and public pools — those in unincorporated St. Charles County and the cities of Dardenne Prairie, O’Fallon, St. Charles and Wentzville — are licensed and inspected regularly by Division of Environmental Health and Protection staff. Staff reviews designs, enforces the County aquatic code and monitors proper operation and facility maintenance.



Manage Temperatures, Safety at Summertime Meals
barbecue grill with food
Backyard barbecues and picnics are the perfect place to enjoy family fun and tasty treats. While little beats the smoky flavor of foods cooked on a grill, following proper food handling and safety techniques will ensure that the only thing guests take home is leftovers.

Fight BAC!
An estimated 76 million cases of foodborne illness occur each year in the United States. To prevent these bacteria and viruses from ruining your next outdoor get-together, follow these simple suggestions to fight bacteria:
  • Keep things clean – Wash hands before and after handling foods. Clean surfaces and equipment before and after preparing food on them.
  • Separate items – Avoid cross-contamination by using different serving dishes and equipment for raw and cooked foods. Throw away sauces used to marinade raw foods.
  • Cook properly – Use a thermometer to ensure that foods reach proper internal temperatures before serving. Safe food temperatures for various grilling favorites are: steak, fish and pork (145° Fahrenheit); hamburger (155° F); and chicken and other poultry (165° F).
  • Stay hot or cold – During food preparation and serving, keep cold foods cold and hot foods hot. Do not leave perishable items to the elements for long periods.

Know Your Tools
A good chef is also a safe chef. If you use a gas grill, check hoses and canisters for damage prior to lighting the flame. For charcoal grills, an electric starter or charcoal chimney combines safety and convenience. A squirt water bottle helps to control flare-ups and flame-retardant gloves protect against burns. Be sure to thoroughly extinguish fires once your grilling is complete.

Seek Help
Inviting your child to help with the food selection and meal preparation is a great way to encourage nutritious eating and combat finicky eaters. If you ask your child to assist with simple chores like tossing the salad, collecting condiments or setting the table, keep a watchful eye on them when sharp objects or hot plates are involved.


Protect People and Pets from Pests

St. Charles County’s mosquito control program aims to decrease nuisance pests and prevent diseases that these insects transmit. Program staff works with residents and contracted municipalities to monitor traditional breeding areas and apply specific treatment products as needed.

Block the Bite
While the program will reduce the number of mosquitoes in the community, residents must take responsibility to protect themselves. The best way to discourage biting is to use insect repellent whenever outdoors. Products containing DEET, picaridin, IR3535 or oil of lemon eucalyptus have been proven to be the most effective. Wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants when outdoors and staying indoors during peak periods — at dusk and dawn — will help reduce opportunities for exposure.

Steps to eliminate potential breeding grounds also whelps, including:
  • Draining areas where water stands for more than one week.
  • Emptying watering cans, wading pools and containers after use.
  • Cleaning clogged gutters.
  • Routinely changing water in bird baths and aerating garden ponds.

Our Treatment Zones

Along with efforts by residents, the mosquito program contracts with several municipalities to control populations in St. Charles County. The program provides treatment in unincorporated St. Charles County, as well as Augusta, Cottleville, Dardenne Prairie, Flint Hill, Lake Saint Louis, Portage des Sioux, Weldon Spring, Weldon Spring Heights and Wentzville. If you live in these areas, please use our online service to request mosquito treatment near your home. Those living within the city limits of O’Fallon, St. Charles and St. Peters should contact their city hall representative for service.

Insect Illnesses
Over the last few years, we’ve become more aware of the potentially dangerous diseases spread through insect bites, both here and around the world. A few of these illnesses include:

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DON'T PASS ON FOOD SAFETY DURING SUPER BOWL
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Tick-borne Diseases

The same 
tick-borne illnesses that affect humans can infect pets as well. Since dogs and cats spend time outdoors, opportunities for exposure to ticks is high. Animals’ thick fur can cause tiny ticks to be difficult to spot. If your pet displays changes in behavior or appetite, and exposure to ticks is a possibility, consult your veterinarian immediately.

Preventing bites is the most important step in preventing these illnesses:
  • Speak with your veterinarian about reliable tick-prevention products and about vaccinating your pet against diseases carried by insects. Make sure the product you purchase is appropriate for your pet. Many of these products can be harmful if used improperly.
  • Keep pets away from common tick habitat, including tall grass and wooded areas.
  • Vigilantly check for ticks whenever the animal returns from the outdoors. Common places to find ticks on pets include behind the ears, in armpits, between toes, under collars and on the belly.
  • If you discover a tick on your body or your pet, remove the tick (https://www.petfinder.com/dogs/dog-care/remove-dog-tick/) quickly and completely.

Tick-borne Diseases

The same tick-borne illnesses that affect humans can infect pets as well. Since dogs and cats spend time outdoors, opportunities for exposure to ticks is high. Animals’ thick fur can cause tiny ticks to be difficult to spot. If your pet displays changes in behavior or appetite, and exposure to ticks is a possibility, consult your veterinarian immediately.

Preventing bites is the most important step in preventing these illnesses:
  • Speak with your veterinarian about reliable tick-prevention products and about vaccinating your pet against diseases carried by insects. Make sure the product you purchase is appropriate for your pet. Many of these products can be harmful if used improperly.
  • Keep pets away from common tick habitat, including tall grass and wooded areas.
  • Vigilantly check for ticks whenever the animal returns from the outdoors. Common places to find ticks on pets include behind the ears, in armpits, between toes, under collars and on the belly.
  • If you discover a tick on your body or your pet, remove the tick (https://www.petfinder.com/dogs/dog-care/remove-dog-tick/) quickly and completely.