Hazards abound during summertime, from food poisoning to fireworks injuries. Follow these tips to stay safe.

Dehydration paired with long hours under the hot sun can cause heat exhaustion.
Dehydration paired with long hours under the hot sun can cause heat exhaustion. (Getty Images)

Summer is here and millions of Americans will be spending time in the great outdoors or splashing in the pool. And in between the swimming, surfing, hiking, biking, grilling and camping could also be an unplanned trip to the hospital.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that rates of emergency department (aka, ER) visits for heat-related illness substantially increased across several U.S. regions last summer compared with those in previous years. And nearly 1 million children in the U.S. landed in the ER between June and August last year due to injuries from pools, fireworks and lawn games, according to a report from SafeHome.org.

Before heading to your next barbecue, campfire or beach outing, learn about these five summer health hazards and how to avoid them so you won't ruin your fun in the sun.

Dehydration paired with long hours under the hot sun — especially when millions of Americans across the country are facing record-breaking temperatures — can cause heat exhaustion, otherwise known as heat illness. “Signs of heat exhaustion include heavy sweating and a rapid pulse, and these two symptoms alert you that the body is overheating,” Dr. Joshua Feinstein, an emergency medicine physician with Memorial Hermann Memorial City Medical Center, tells Yahoo Life. Other common symptoms include muscle cramping, fatigue, headache and dizziness.

Heatstroke is a much more serious condition and occurs when one’s body temperature exceeds 104°F. Confusion, headache, nausea, vomiting and red skin are typical signs of this heat-related illness. “If left untreated, a person opens themselves up to brain, kidney, heart and/or muscle damage,” Feinstein says.

If you must be outside for extended periods of time, it’s important to find a cool area, either in the shade or indoors, and take frequent breaks, advises Feinstein. Wear light-colored, loose-fitting clothing, along with keeping yourself hydrated. “Drink about 8 ounces of water every 20 minutes” when outdoors, he suggests. “This will help with the loss of moisture you will experience while sweating. Avoid alcohol, as well as drinks high in sugar and caffeine.” He also recommends consuming sports drinks to replace electrolytes.

“Recognizing the signs and symptoms of heat illness and dehydration — and taking quick action in the case of an emergency — will give you a better chance at enjoying a healthy summer,” he says.

Suffering from food poisoning is a common summertime problem — one that can cause nausea, vomiting or diarrhea after eating food that contains germs, such as bacteria, viruses or parasites, Dr. Benedict Ifedi, a family medicine and sports medicine physician at Memorial Hermann Medical Group Katy Primary Care & Sports Medicine, tells Yahoo Life.

“Food poisoning is more likely in the summer due to the fact that foodborne bacterial growth factors have temperatures between 90℉ to 110℉,” says Ifedi. Bacteria flourish in a hot and humid environment, which explains why harmful germs can quickly multiply on food, he notes. According to the American Osteopathic Association (AOA), an estimated 48 million Americans — 1 in 6 — get sick from food poisoning each year.

As for the foods that fall under the high-risk category, the AOA reports that undercooked chicken comes in at No. 1, followed by fresh produce, meat, fish, shellfish, eggs, mayo, dairy items and ready-to-eat foods. “Plus, there is also a higher chance of cross-contamination, especially when cooking at picnics or barbecues if you are using the same materials for prep, such as the same chopping board for both meat and vegetables,” says Ifedi.

Depending on the type of infection, food poisoning can last up to 48 hours and in some cases, IV fluids and antibiotics may be necessary, according to the Cleveland Clinic.

Ifedi offers numerous ways to keep food from spoiling during the sweltering season. “Keep raw meat, poultry and seafood chilled until ready to grill, in the fridge or in an insulated cooler below 40°F,” he says. Place leftovers in the freezer or fridge within two hours of cooking (or one hour if the temperature outside reaches 90°F or higher), separate the raw foods from the cooked foods and use different utensils when working with raw foods and prepared food.

Before enjoying the sweet taste of fresh summer produce, wash fruits and vegetables thoroughly, as well as your hands. “Wash hands before handling any food, as well as after touching raw meat, poultry or seafood,” says Ifedi. “Use soap and water or alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Also, make sure to clean work surfaces, utensils and the grill both before and after cooking.”

Last, stick a food thermometer into the thickest part of the meat and poultry to ensure they are cooked well enough to kill off germs. Here are the minimum internal temperatures for different meats:

  • Beef, pork, lamb and veal (steaks, roasts, chops): 145℉ (63℃) with a 3-minute rest for medium rare, 160℉ (71℃) for medium

  • Ground beef, pork, lamb and veal (burgers, hot dogs, sausages): 160℉ (71℃)

  • Poultry (whole, breasts, thighs, ground): 165℉ (74℃)

  • Fish (whole, filet): 145℉ (63℃) or until flesh is no longer translucent

  • Shrimp, lobster, crab and scallops: Cook until flesh is pearly or white and opaque

Additionally, if raw meat juices get on any other food items, it’s important to also cook those to a minimum internal temperature of 165℉ to kill off bacteria.

While genetics increases the risk of developing kidney stones — hard, pebblelike materials that form in one or both kidneys when high levels of certain chemicals are present in the urine — not drinking enough liquids is another common culprit. One study published in the American Journal of Kidney Diseases discovered that ER visits for kidney stones (as well as other kidney issues) climbed during the warmer months.

Here's why: A low intake of fluids can lead to excreting less urine, followed by concentrated urine, as explained by researchers in the Turkish Journal of Urology. As a result, this may cause the supersaturation of minerals that lead to the formation of kidney stones.

Other factors that can increase the likelihood of developing kidney stones include taking certain medications over a period of time, including water pills, calcium-based antacids and anti-seizure medications, according to the National Institutes of Health.

Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. Along with sipping water throughout the day, consider adding high-water content foods to your plate, like watermelon, honeydew, cantaloupe, pineapple, oranges, peaches and strawberries.

Kidney stones can vary in size and cause at least one of the following symptoms, including severe pain in the lower back, nausea, vomiting, fever, chills, blood in the urine, cloudy urine, urine that smells funky and a stomachache that doesn’t go away, according to the National Kidney Foundation. If you are experiencing one or more of these symptoms, it’s important to seek medical attention immediately.

Not surprisingly, most drownings and near-drownings occur between May through August, according to statistics from the National SAFE KIDS Campaign and the National Safety Council. The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that drowning is the second leading cause of unintentional injury death in children ages 1 to 14 years in the U.S.

But kids and teens aren’t the only ones affected. Studies indicate males are more likely to be hospitalized for nonfatal drownings, and they have twice the overall mortality rate. WHO adds that research suggests increased exposure to water and riskier behavior, such as boating, swimming alone and swimming after drinking alcohol, contributes to high drowning rates in men.

For starters, do not go for solo swims. “Always swim with a buddy, especially at night,” Dr. John Whyte, internist and chief medical officer of WebMD, tells Yahoo Life. Regardless of your age, consider signing up for swimming lessons since it can build confidence in the water.

“Knowing how to swim can significantly reduce the risk of drowning,” he says. “I find people think they know how to swim, but their skills are very basic. And many people have never taken a lesson and overestimate their skills.” In addition to swimming, Whyte urges children and adults to learn water safety skills, such as floating and treading water, as well as how to exit the water safely.

“Life jackets are essential for young children, inexperienced swimmers and anyone participating in water sports,” Whyte says. “It’s important to wear life jackets whenever you’re on a boat, regardless of swimming ability, as accidents can happen unexpectedly.” Also, ensure life jackets are the right size.

Stay out of the pool, lake and ocean if you’ve been consuming alcohol and never leave children unattended near a body of water. “Even if they are experienced swimmers, an adult should always be within arm's reach,” adds Whyte.

With many places in the U.S. relaxing laws about consumers purchasing fireworks, accidents involving these explosives have been on the rise. A study published in the Journal of the American College of Emergency Physicians Open found that the majority of victims are children and young adult males, while the largest percentage of injuries takes place during the Fourth of July and New Year’s holidays.

Additional research published in 2023 reported that the overall incidence rate of fireworks-related injuries rose by over 17% over the last decade, with the upper extremities (more than 41%), head and neck (36%) and lower extremities (nearly 14%) being the most injured regions. The most significant injuries requiring hospitalization occur most often while using aerial devices and illegal fireworks.

“Remember, ‘fire’ is in the word, so you need to take it seriously,” stresses Whyte. If anyone in your group insists on putting on a private show, light one firework at a time and then move back quickly.

“Never lean over the fireworks when lighting them,” he says. “If a firework doesn't go off, do not attempt to relight it.” Everyone needs to maintain a safe distance from any fireworks being set off — 25 to 40 feet for ground-based items and 75 to 100 yards for aerial products, says Whyte.

Another safety precaution: Have a hose, bucket of water or fire extinguisher nearby when setting off fireworks to help quickly extinguish any accidental fires. “Then after fireworks have been used, soak them in water before disposing them to prevent any residual sparks from causing a fire,” he says.

The bottom line is that fireworks are dangerous, so the best injury prevention tip would be to refrain from using them (not to mention that selling and igniting fireworks are illegal in some states).

“Personally, I leave it to the professionals,” says Whyte. “Enjoy fireworks by attending professional displays, which are safer and more spectacular than DIY fireworks. Professional displays are conducted by licensed and trained operators who understand how to handle fireworks safely.”