Summertime is all about fun and relaxation – at least when you’re a kid and don’t have to worry about mortgage payments and work deadlines. Oh, to be young again! Those lazy, hazy, crazy days don’t come without their share of hazards, though. In order to stay safe this season, pay attention to the following potential dangers.

Recreational water illnesses (RWI).

Any swimming area open to the public carries a risk of harboring bacteria that can cause gastrointestinal, skin, ear, eye, respiratory, or neurologic distress. RWI cases have increased 200 percent over the past couple of decades. Swallowing contaminated water is the most common method of transmission, so use caution when swimming in a public pool, splashing around in a water park, or taking a dip in the local swimming hole.

Food-borne illnesses.

One in six Americans contracts food poisoning every year and about 3,000 cases prove fatal. Summer months are the most dangerous; bacteria grow fastest in temperatures between 90 and 100 degrees, causing foods to spoil more quickly. When packing a picnic lunch, wrap uncooked meat tightly and be sure to throw away any food that has been left unrefrigerated for longer than two hours.

Fireworks injuries.

Fireworks are synonymous with Independence Day; so too are injuries resulting from their use. 200 people per day visit the emergency room in the weeks leading up to our nation’s birthday, with most injuries affecting the hands, fingers, and face. Firecrackers aren’t the only offenders; sparklers – which kids find especially appealing – are responsible for 12 percent of all injuries. It’s best to leave fireworks displays to the professionals.


It’s natural to seek out as much sunshine as possible after our notoriously long South Dakota winters, but too much of a good thing is a real possibility during the summer months. Sunburns can cause long-term skin damage and increase the risk of certain types of cancers later in life, so try to avoid outdoor activities during the middle of the day, wear a wide-brimmed hat when venturing outdoors, and be sure to use sunscreen liberally – even on cloudy days.

West Nile virus.

The risk of contracting West Nile virus isn’t huge; an average of 2,648 cases are reported every year, but the disease is slightly more common in the Midwest. Fortunately, most people who do contract the virus experience minor symptoms such as headache and fever; fewer than one percent develop serious neurological problems. Just in case, be sure to apply mosquito repellent when going outside during peak season.

Lyme disease.

About one in every 1,000 Americans develops Lyme disease each year. A large majority of cases are confined to 13 states, mostly in the Northeast, but it’s wise to take precautions when traveling through wooded areas – the preferred habitat of ticks. Wear long-sleeve shirts and pants, apply insect repellent with a 20 percent or higher concentration of DEET, and check yourself carefully for ticks when you get home. They can be hard to spot, but often leave behind a distinctive red bullseye mark on your skin.