April has finally arrived in Pittsburgh, and that means the spring activities can begin soon (pending the final flight of the chilly weather, of course!). Baseball games, gardening in the backyard, BBQs, walks in our parks, kayaking and boating - these things and more await us and are set to become the staple of a our spring and summer. But before you skip off to enjoy the fun that our city and the surrounding areas have to offer, we highly recommend brushing up on spring health and safety needs.
Our spring health needs are very different from our winter health needs. Winter health and safety tends to focus on watching out for ice and preventing the spread of the flu and colds. Spring, however, brings on a whole new round of challenges, several of which remain a health consideration through the summer as well. For example:
- There’s a right way to get your spring cleaning chores done. While many of us wouldn’t expect spring cleaning to be a health issue, it can be one in the wrong circumstances. For example, many of the products that we use to clean our homes can become major health hazards when used or stored incorrectly; in the worst case scenarios incorrect usage can lead to a visit to the ER. Because of this the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends taking certain steps to stay safe during our spring cleaning sessions. Things you can do include keeping products in their original bottles or container, keeping cleaning products locked up and out of sight and reach of children, and opening windows and turning on fans when using cleaners or other chemicals. Following any instructions on your cleaning supplies is also a must!
- The ticks are back in action. Adult ticks are most active from March to mid-May and from mid-August to November. Unfortunately, tick prevalence is on the rise in PA., including in our own county. Lyme Disease is also presenting more often, thanks in part to the fact that ticks are appearing in parks and backyards - not just in distant wooded areas. Because of this, everyone should brush up on how to reduce their risk of tick bites. The CDC has tips that families can use to protect children and pets alike from this growing threat. Even if you take steps to prevent tick bites though, monitoring for bites and symptoms after spending any time outside is very important. Lyme disease can be cured if addressed early, but when left untreated it can cause persistent chronic problems and physical disability.
- Your skin is at risk of being damaged - even in cloudy Pittsburgh. It’s not a secret that sunlight can damage our skin and increase our risk of skin cancer. Unfortunately, many of us forget that sun protection such as sunscreen, sunglasses and hats is a must year-round - including in the spring. Even in the cloudy Steel City, sun protection is a must! Even our city’s cloud cover will not block UV radiation, which is a major risk factor for skin cancer. So before heading out the door to enjoy your next spring outing, be sure to apply sunscreen about 30 minutes before going out and re-apply it every 2 hours. Remember: the sun’s rays are most damaging between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., but anytime spent outdoors exposes you to the sun’s damaging rays.
- Allergy season is here. Perhaps the most famous health issue people experience during the spring is seasonal allergies. This is something we discussed last month as well, as allergies are a widespread nuisance and issue right now. Often an allergic reaction includes symptoms like runny noses and watery eyes; in the worse case scenario, though, allergies symptoms can worsen into a potentially deadly anaphylactic attack. Fortunately, there are a range of medicines available to patients today to help deal with varying degrees of allergic reactions. You can also meet with your doctor to ensure you’re prepared for a severe reaction; if you haven’t already done so, meeting with your doctor to discuss any new allergies or concerns is a must.
- The weather can make driving dangerous. Rainy weather does not create a safe driving environment; knowing the risks of driving in bad weather is especially important in a city like Pittsburgh during the spring. Here’s a few key points to remember the next time you get behind the wheel:
- Slow down once the rain begins to fall – any amount of water can create slick conditions once it mixes with the oils and dust sitting on the roads.
- Don’t drive faster than your wipers can clear water from the windshield.
- Take the time to avoid puddles, which often hide hazardous road problems like potholes.
- Do not immediately hit the brakes if you begin to slide in the rain – ease off the accelerator and slowly brake to regain control of your vehicle.
By taking a few simple precautions, spring hazards like these can be addressed before they escalate into full-blown health risks or health problems. Hopefully, you’ll find that by following these steps your spring season will be quite enjoyable and doctor-visit free!