Beware: There's a dark side of sunny days
The warm sun on your skin... picnics with friends.... long, lazy days... beach vacations... heat stroke? We're not trying to kill your summer buzz, but there are a few heightened risks associated with summertime fun, so follow these precautions. And then dive right in!
Tick tick tick
According to the Centers for Disease Control, cases of Lyme Disease rose by close to 200 percent in Virginia between 2005 and 2010, and the effects of the disease can be devastating. As detailed in a Hook cover story, Lyme is carried by the deer tick, also known as the blacklegged tick, and while most people think they'll be able to spot the early stage from the classic "bullseye" rash that's not always possible. Since Lyme's not the only serious illness carried by ticks, your best bet is to avoid getting bitten. That means taking preventative measures when you're outside in tall grass or wooded areas– long sleeves and long pants tucked into socks help keep ticks off, as do DEET-containing bug sprays. Finally, always check yourself and your children for ticks after outdoor outings.
Thirty years ago, bike-riding children thrilled to feel the wind blowing through their hair as they hurtled down hills and went over jumps, heads unencumbered– and at risk. These days, kids don helmets even when riding on the hill-less and car-less stretch of the Rivanna Trail because they have to– it's law in the city for children 14 and under. But helmets may cause a problem of their own, according to some recent research that suggests they can increase the risk of neck injury by "digging in" when a rider falls, causing the rider's head to snap back. That's the argument made by Richmond-based cyclist, engineer and father J. Tyler Ballance, who says helmets for road riding and high speed racing make sense, but may actually add risk when kids wear them while riding in cul-de-sacs or on paved paths. No matter what, when you or your child are wearing a bike helmet, make sure it's strapped properly to ensure it works in case of a fall. According to the National Highway Transportation Administration, that means the strap should be secured snugly under the chin (no more than two fingers should fit between strap and skin), and the helmet should be on the head squarely to ensure the forehead and the back of the head are adequately protected.
Among the most popular hikes in the area is the steep climb to Crabtree Falls in the George Washington National Forest in Nelson County, but it's also the most deadly. Twenty-seven people have fallen to their deaths there, most– including the most recent in 2010– after ignoring posted warnings to stay off the moss-covered rocks. Indeed, any time you have rocks and water near steep drop-offs, the conditions are right for a potentially lethal slip.
In 2007, an Earlysville mom paid the ultimate price for her distraction when she forgot her nine-month-old son was in the car as she worked all day at the Judge Advocate General school. The baby died of hyperthermia, and his mother, who endured a criminal trial, is far from the only parent to make such a tragic mistake. In warmer months, cars become hotboxes that, in mere minutes, can soar to upwards of 100 degrees. Small children and animals, unable to escape on their own, should never be left unattended– even for a quick jaunt into the grocery store. If you happen upon an unattended vehicle with a child or pet inside, don't hesitate to call 911. A life may depend on it.
Hot humid days can be deadly, particularly for babies, the elderly, and athletes. Such was the case on a 97-degree day in 2005 with talented Albemarle High School runner Kelly Watt, who collapsed and died after a run along Ridge Road. Nausea, vomiting, fatigue and confusion are symptoms, and if untreated, heat stroke can be fatal. Staying hydrated is key, and avoiding extreme exertion when the temperature soars is another important preventative measure.