From laying out poolside to barbeques in the backyard to walks on beautifully warm evenings, the summer offers so much that we donít get to enjoy during other seasons. Itís my favorite time of year (though some may argue that, as a Florida native, Iíve never truly experienced the other seasons!) If youíre crazy about the summer, there are a few things to keep in mind so that you can really make the most of the season. And, I guess, if you arenít too fond of it, learning of a few things to bear in mind during the warm months may provide a new-found appreciation for the heat.
Contrary to popular belief, those of us with darker skin tones CAN in fact fall victim to sunburns and skin cancer. The more melanin you have Ė what gives color to our skin Ė the more protected you are from harsh UV rays. Being a chocolate-y sister myself, protecting my skin from the sun was not something I ever thought much about. But, recently when preparing to hit the beach with my hubby, he was adamant about us getting some sunscreen. I have to say, it was good thinking on his part. That extra melanin doesnít mean that your skin is immune to sun damage, so protect it! If youíre going to be spending a lot of time in the sun, get a good, broad spectrum sunblock. An SPF 15-30 is good for the grown folks, while SPF 30 is best for the kids. Should you avoid the sun altogether Ė NO! The sun supplies us with vitamin D, which we need, but try to avoid overexposure.
If you live in or have ever visited a tropical climate, you know the annoying buzzing and biting of mosquitos. Mosquitos can be much more than mere annoyances. They can carry serious and even deadly sicknesses. Malaria, the West Nile Virus and dengue fever are the ones we may hear of the most. If youíve got any Caribbean connections, youíve heard of the dreaded, yet beloved butt of many jokes, the chikungunya. Although some of these illness are common here in the States, youíd do well to remember them. No need to be paranoid, but, protect yourself from the pesky bugs, especially during the hours that mosquitos are most active! Bug repellents, specifically the ones that contain DEET, are always a good idea. If you want to be able to enjoy outdoor activities, purchase the candles and coils that can used to repel them as well. Also, remember to wear clothing that offers some protection too.
So, I know some of you who are reading this are pretty sure you have nothing to worry about seeing as how you try and avoid the heat by hanging out indoors and staying cool. I read an article last month from CNN that brought to mind something I hadnít thought about much before. During the summer, air conditioning units (central and otherwise) are more than likely running more frequently, which means irritants like dust and mold may be building up in AC filters. If the filter isnít cleaned or changed frequently enough, it effects how well the AC works, as well as causing these irritants to float around your home in the air. Just remember to have filters changed/cleaned at least every three months. In most rental properties (in South Florida), itís suggested that the filter be changed monthly.
Alon Harish of ABC News wrote that, with all the picnic and BBQ fun over the summer, there are three major things to keep in mind where food is concerned:
- Cross contamination: Donít let the raw juices of uncooked foods (i.e. raw meat) get mixed with foods that are ready to be eaten. For instance (and this applies during any time of year), donít prepare raw hamburger patties and the lettuce and tomato for your burger on the same surface (unless youíve washed it THOROUGHLY). Bacteria like salmonella and E. coli can wreak havoc on our bodies, and this is exactly what will happen if we donít prevent cross contamination.
- Refrigeration: Bacteria donít like cold weather and absolutely flourish in warm, comfortable environments. Keep foods refrigerated. Auntie Lorettaís potato salad might not be the best choice if itís been sitting out on the picnic table for a few hours Ė IJS!
- Cook Thoroughly: Undercooked meats can definitely leave you hugging the toilet bowl if you arenít careful! In fact, to be on the safe side, be sure that burger patties are completely defrosted before going on the grill, that way, you lessen the likelihood for them not reaching that correct temperature and cooking completely. Beef and pork should be cooked to at least 160 degrees Fahrenheit, while chicken and turkey should be brought to at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
Shari Grant is a Registered Nurse in South Florida, where she was raised in a (very!) Jamaican home. Some of the loves of her life are words (both reading and writing them) and missions work. She enjoys spending time with friends and family while living for a good laugh - one that makes her belly ache and her eyes water. Her bottom line goal in life is to make the Lord smile and maybe even serve Him up a chuckle from time to time, too.