By: Heather Williams
While the official first day of Summer begins with the Summer Solstice. Celestially, Summer begins when the earth’s axis is pointed at the closest orientation to the sun. However unofficially, we begin thoughts of Summer after Memorial Day. Now that Memorial Day has been observed, you might begin planning your Summer vacations and thinking about fun in the sun. Don’t forget to keep yourself and your family safe when traveling this Summer, whether your destination is home or abroad.
“Just like you make preparations for a trip you also need to prepare ahead of time so you don’t spoil your vacation by getting sick during your trip or when you get home,” suggests Dr. Brent W. Laartz, infectious disease specialist of Safety Harbor, Florida and author of “How to Avoid Contagious Diseases.” He explains that travel related illness can range from mild symptoms associated with foodborne diarrhea to the very serious malaria and Ebola.
International Travel Tips
When traveling internationally, check with the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) travel notices to be aware of specific travel warning for the area you are going to. This information can be found at: https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/notices
The CDC explains the basic actions the traveler should take and the risk associated with that particular notice level. Notice levels are broken down into three categories: Level 1 is Watch, Level 2 is alert, and Level 3 is warning with strengthened traveler action and increased traveler risk as you move from level 1 to level 3.
Level 1: Watch
At this notice level, the CDC urges traveler to follow the usual precautions associated for the particular destination. Some countries have known clean water issues, so consuming only safe bottled water and avoiding ice is a must. Some countries require specific vaccines for safe travel due to endemic diseases, so be sure those vaccines are up to date and received in enough advance time to be effective. The risk to the traveler at this notice level is the usual or baseline risk associated with the travel destination.
Level 2: Alert
At this notice level, the CDC urges travelers to follow enhanced precautions posted on the CDC travel notice webpage for the particular destination. For this alert level, the CDC has deemed the risk to be above baseline for the destination in response to defined settings with specific risk factors and suggests that “certain high-risk populations may wish to delay travel to these destinations.”
Level 3: Warning
At this notice level, the CDC urges traveler to “avoid all non-essential travel to this destination” as it is a high risk destination for travelers at this time.
Domestic Camping Tips
If camping is in your domestic travel plans, be sure to plan accordingly to prevent foodborne illness and minimize other risk factors so you can enjoy your time in the great outdoors. Consider the following tips to prepare for your upcoming trip.
Vaccines – The CDC suggests checking with your doctor to be sure you are up to date on all the recommended vaccines such as tetanus and Hepatitis A.
Food and Water Safety – Plan ahead with healthy food and safe drinking water. Bring plenty of clean water to consume and cook with. Be sure to pack foods in waterproof bags and have an insulated cooler to keep cold foods cold. Separate raw foods from cooked foods to avoid cross-contamination of bacteria into your ready-to-eat foods. Wash hands and cooking surfaces regularly. If water is not available use hand sanitizer. If possible, create a mobile sink with a water dispenser that has a continuous flow spout and use a bucket to catch the water. Thoroughly dry hands with paper towels. Additionally, when cooking, be sure that you are cooking foods to proper temperature based on the type of food and chill uneaten foods promptly.
Avoid Poisonous Plants – Whether hiking, exploring nature, or hanging out at the campsite, keep and eye out for poisonous plants such as poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac. Refer to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health webpage found at: https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/plants/identification.html to identify what these plants look like. Do not eat any wild growing plants unless you are absolutely sure they are safe for consumption.
Drink Plenty of Water – When spending an extended time outdoors, hydration is a major concern. Do not wait until you are thirsty to drink. At that point your body is already dehydrated. Pack plenty of water for the camp and bring adequate water for the time you are away when venturing away from the camp. To avoid overheating and to protect yourself from the sun, the CDC recommends wearing layers of light-weight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing. Protect yourself from too much sun exposure and rest in shady areas when possible.
Create Safe Drinking Water
If you find yourself without water, Tim MacWelch of Outdoor Life has some great ideas on finding a water source and making it safe to drink. For safe, untreated water you may be able to collect fresh precipitation, such as rain, snow, sleet, hail, dew, and ice. Water coming from underground sources and springs are usually safe to drink. All other water must be treated to avoid sickness. Consider the following options to survive with naturally collected water.
Boil Water – Boiling water may not evaporate all chemical pollution in the water but should kill most bacteria, parasites, and pathogens. Bring water to a rolling boil for at least 5 minutes with increased boiling time for higher elevations. If a fireproof container is not available, MacWelch recommends heating rocks in a fire for 30 minutes and then place them into your container of water. A container can be anything from animal hide to a bowl of burned out wood or even a rock depression. He recommends not using quartz or river rocks as they may explode when heated.
Solar Water Disinfection – This type of water disinfection uses the sun’s energy to create drinkable water. A common technique is to fill small plastic water bottles with the water you wish to disinfect and expose it to sunlight in sunny weather for a day. Do this for 2 days for overcast weather. This method requires full sun and does not offer any protection from chemicals or spores. The bottles must be clear and cannot be made of glass.
Chemical Tablets – Chemical disinfecting tablets can be purchased ahead of time and packed in case of emergency. Follow all instructions for amount of water each tablet will disinfect and the wait time for the particular product to be effective. These tablets are generally made with iodine, creating a distinct taste in the water and should be avoided by pregnant women, those with shellfish allergies, and anyone with thyroid issues.
Whatever your Summer plans are, keep safety in mind and enjoy the season.