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Summer health and safety: 5 mistakes you don't want to make

Don't forget to take simple safety precautions while having fun in the sun. istockphoto

Memorial Day weekend is the unofficial start of summer. But with the opening of pools, parks, and beaches, as well as the unveiling of backyard grills, it can be easy to get caught up in the fun and forget basic safety precautions. Here are five common mistakes to avoid to help ensure that you and your family enjoy a healthy summer.

Mistake #1: Skipping the sunscreen

Choose a sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher. istockphoto

Despite constant warnings, barely one third of Americans use sunscreen regularly, according to a recent study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This is particularly dangerous, as melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, is on the rise among white Americans, increasing from 8.7 cases per 100,000 people in 1975 to 27.6 per 100,000 in 2008, the National Cancer Institute reports. To protect yourself from the sun's harmful rays, use a sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher and broad spectrum protection to shield against both UVA and UVB rays of the sun.

Mistake #2: Bacterial BBQs

Use a food thermometer to ensure grilled meats have reached a safe internal temperature. istockphoto

One in six Americans are sickened and 128,000 are hospitalized each year due to foodborne illnesses, according to the CDC. What's more, food poisoning peaks in the summer months when warmer temperatures provide a breeding ground for germs to flourish. Keep your family and guests safe by taking extra precautions like washing hands and prep surfaces immediately after they have touched raw meat or poultry, cleaning grill surfaces with a moist cloth before cooking, and discarding marinades and sauces that have come in contact with raw meats. Finally, use a food thermometer to ensure grilled meats have reached the proper internal temperature to kill harmful bacteria.

Mistake #3: Playing dangerous pool games

Never swim alone and always supervise children in the water. istockphoto

Each day, about 10 people in the U.S. die of unintentional drowning, according to the CDC. A recent report from the organization warns against breath-holding contests and extreme underwater fitness training as common causes of drowning, even among strong swimmers. To protect yourself and your children, never swim alone, always supervise children in the water, and have someone monitor any physical training, swim drills, and pool games to make sure everyone stays safe.

Mistake #4: Not protecting against ticks

The best protection against Lyme disease is to avoid tick-infested areas. istockphoto

Lyme disease, the most common tick-borne infectious disease in the United States, can cause symptoms of fever, headaches, body aches, and fatigue. If left untreated, it can cause more severe health problems and in some cases may even prove fatal. In 2013, state health departments reported 27,203 confirmed cases and 9,104 probable cases of Lyme disease. The best way to protect yourself from ticks is to avoid wooded and bushy areas, walk in the center of trails, and wear protective clothing, such as boots, long pants and shirts, and socks in any areas ticks may be. Using an insect repellent with 20 to 30 percent DEET on exposed skin and clothing can also offer protection. Finally, removing clothes and showering immediately after coming indoors, followed by a full-body tick check, will help protect against Lyme disease.

Mistake #5: Overdoing the alcohol

To stay hydrated, alternate a glass of water with every alcoholic drink. istockphoto

Drinking in moderation is fine, but endless sunshine and warm nights can make it easy to lose track of how many beers or margaritas you've knocked back at a summer soiree. In order to stay hydrated and avoid a dreaded hangover (as well reduce the risk of alcohol-related falls and other injuries), alternate a glass of water with every alcoholic drink and ask a friend to help you keep track if you're prone to over-drinking in social settings. And of course, if you've been drinking at all, don't drive.

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