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Ticks, mosquitoes, and hamburgers? Staying healthy during the summer

John Tann

You may have had your last cold a few months ago, but did you know that there are many ways you can get sick during the summer? Taking some time to familiarize yourself with summer illnesses before stepping outside can go a long way towards staying healthy this season.

This week on “Take Care,” Dr. Cynthia Morrow discusses summertime diseases in our area and how to avoid them.  Morrow is a public health physician and teaches public health and preventive medicine at Upstate Medical University.

Click "Read More" to hear our interview with Dr. Cynthia Morrow.

Some of the more common summer diseases are carried by insects.  Lyme disease is commonly found in ticks, while West Nile virus and Eastern equine encephalitis can be found in mosquitoes. 

Morrow says that “there has been a dramatic increase” in the numbers of ticks in the area over the past five years.  With more ticks comes a higher risk for contracting Lyme disease.

“Depending on the year, up to 60 percent of the ticks that are caught are infected with Lyme disease, and that [data] is specific for Onondaga County,” Morrow says.

Although Deet and other insect sprays may seem like effective ways to ward off insects, they can contain powerful chemicals that should be used in moderation. 

“The important thing is for people to use other barriers like long pants [and] long sleeves,” Morrow said.

Other diseases such as rabies can be carried by animals.  Morrow’s advice regarding wild animals is simple:  “don’t touch them.”

In addition to insects and animals, diseases can be found in bodies of water.

Taking a dip in a cool lake or river on a hot day may be tempting, but it is important to choose regulated bodies of water, such as beaches and pools.

“If you are swimming in an unregulated water area, try to minimize the amount of water you swallow,” Morrow says.  Doing so decreases your risk of developing digestive problems and ear infections.

There are also a few precautions to take in preparing food at picnics and other outdoor gatherings. 

“It’s really important to minimize food illness by checking the temperature, keeping cold foods cold, hot foods hot, and making sure you’re not cross-contaminating.”

Morrow’s advice may seem obvious, but your body will thank you if you take a few simple steps to protect your health while enjoying the outdoors.