Cashins & Associates Blog

Summertime Safety and Health: Sunburns, Poisonous Plants, and Insects

Posted by Eileen Watkins on Thu, Jul, 24, 2014 @ 14:07 PM

Bee's NestAn earlier blog post of ours focused on heat stress, a safety hazard that is much more prevalent during the summer months.  This post addresses other summertime hazards that can impact employees who work outside.

Sunburns can be uncomfortable at best and painful at worst.  They are also an important, clear sign that excessive exposure to the sun's harmful UVA and UVB rays has occurred.  By now, everyone is probably aware that chronic, excessive exposures to sunlight cause skin damage, premature aging of the skin, and increase the risk of skin cancer.  The proper use of sunscreen will help to prevent sunburns and all types of skin damage, including skin cancer. 

Be sure to use a sunscreen that protects against UVA and UVB rays.  Applying a generous amount 30 minutes before you go outside gives the active ingredients time to adsorb onto the skin.  Use a water-resistant sunscreen if you are going to get wet or sweat.  Most importantly, remember that one application of sunscreen won't provide prolonged protection from UVA and UVB rays.  Re-apply your sunscreen every 2 hours.  

Poison IvyPoisonous plants such as poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac cause allergic skin reactions in about 50-75% of the population.  Exposure to the plant oil urushiol causes a rash that is a form of allergic contact dermatitis.  It appears 24 to 72 hours after the exposure and is characterized by red streaks or patches and itching, swelling, and blisters.

Poison ivy, oak, and sumac are caused when the skin directly contacts the plant or when indirect contact with urushiol-contaminated items (gloves, tools, etc.) occurs.  In addition, urushiol can become air-borne if these plants are burned.  In this case, allergic respiratory reactions can occur. 

Protect yourself from poison ivy, oak, and sumac exposures.  Know what these plants look like so you can identify and avoid them.  Wear clothing, gloves, etc. that cover the skin as much as possible.  Apply ivy block barriers which inhibit the oil from absorbing onto the skin.  Immediately wash skin that comes in contact with a poisonous plant.  Use a cleaning product that dissolves the urushiol oil off of your skin.   

Deer TickInsects can cause short-term inconveniences and discomfort - or can significantly impair you.  For most of us, a bee, wasp, or hornet sting causes a quick, sharp pain that quickly goes away.  Unfortunately, some individuals have allergic reactions to these stings.  These reactions run the gamut from moderate to life-threatening.

Reduce your risk of a bee, wasp, or hornet sting.  Inspect your work area for nests.  Wear light-colored clothing that covers as much of the skin as possible.  Avoid scented soaps, deodorants, etc. that attract these insects.  If you or a co-worker is stung, watch for signs and symptoms of an allergic reaction and seek medical care, if needed.

West Nile Virus and Eastern Equine Encephalitis (also known as EEE or Triple E) are mosquito-borne illnesses found in the northeastern US.  They are caused by viruses that are acquired when mosquitoes feed off of infected, non-human hosts (birds, horses, etc.) and subsequently bite humans.  Fortunately, the majority of people that are infected with the West Nile Virus are asymptomatic and EEE is rare in humans.

Lyme Disease is well-known in the northeastern US.  It is caused by bites from black-legged ticks (nicknamed deer ticks) which are infected with the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi.  Lyme disease is initially characterized by a red rash which may be uniform in color or have a "bull's eye" pattern.  Other symptoms such as fever, fatigue, and muscle or joint aches follow.  Early diagnosis and treatment of Lyme Disease usually results in favorable outcomes.  Individuals with undiagnosed or untreated Lyme Disease may experience chronic neurologic, arthritic, cardiac, or other problems.

Protect yourself from tick bites.  Cover your skin as much as possible and wear light-colored clothing which makes it easier to detect ticks.  Use an insect repellent.  Remove and wash your clothes as soon as possible.  Putting them in the dryer for 1 hour will kill any remaining ticks.  Check yourself for ticks and promptly remove them.  Watch for signs and symptoms of Lyme Disease.

Cashins & Associates hopes that you are your workers are having a safe summer!  Do you need help with a safety, industrial hygiene, or environmental issue?  Click on the button below to submit your inquiry today!

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Topics: health & safety, Summer safety, sunburns, insects, poisonous plants

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