Today is the first day of summer in the United States. Over the next few months, it will be important to protect ourselves from the health risks posed by the sun and heat. Regardless of skin color, exposure to the sun carries many dangers to one’s skin—from freckles and wrinkles often associated with aging, to sunburns, benign tumors or cancerous skin lesions. Prolonged heat exposure can also have many negative impacts on one’s health ranging from a rash, exhaustion, fainting, or even death. Although everyone should take precautions to protect their skin, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) encourages those with pale skin; blond, red, or light brown hair; or who has a personal or family history of skin cancer to be especially careful while in the

sun. The sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays can damage one’s skin in as little as 15 minutes, and the best tool in combating that skin damage is sunscreen. The American Academy of Dermatology suggests applying SPF 30 (at least) liberally 15 minutes before going outside, and to reapply at least every two hours to remain protected.   An often overlooked risk to health over the summer are biting insects. Illnesses from mosquito and tick bites have increased in the United States over recent years. Mosquitoes can spread viruses like Zika, West Nile, chikungunya, Eastern equine encephalitis (EEE), and dengue; ticks can infect people or pets with lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, and other tick-borne illnesses. People should protect themselves by using insect/bug repellent…

A mosquito-borne virus has become a growing concern for Americans and people throughout the world.  The Zika virus can affect anyone for up to a week and present with fever, rash, joint pain, red eyes, and other symptoms. However 80% of people afflicted with the virus have no symptoms at all.   Zika virus is especially dangerous to pregnant women because it has been associated with babies being born with microcephaly, a neurodevelopmental disorder where the brain does not fully develop and presents with a disproportionately small head.  The World Health Organization (WHO) has deemed it a “global health threat.”  This week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)’s Emergency Operations Center moved to Level 1, the highest level, due to risk of Zika virus transmission in the

US.   The most recent Zika virus outbreak began in Brazil in 2015 and is transmitted through Aedes mosquitos.  There is no vaccine to prevent or protect people from the virus, and treatment is typical for the flu: plenty of rest, fluids, and fever/pain relievers as needed.  Once diagnosed, it is necessary to further avoid mosquito bites as bites can transmit the virus to other people.  The best way to avoid mosquito bites is long-sleeved clothing when outdoors and applying mosquito repellent. Consumer Reports has released ratings of sprays that protect best against Aedes mosquitos.   The CDC reports that no cases of Zika have been transmitted by mosquito bites in the continental United States, but cases have been diagnosed in…