Avoiding Summer Hazards
For college students, summer can be a welcome break, a chance to reconnect with family and friends, celebrate a successful school year, pick up a fun job for some extra cash. There are Memorial Day parades and Fourth of July fireworks, weekends at the beach and picnics at the lake.
I don’t want to rain on your parade, but I’m here to remind you of some of the hazards of summer.
Playing Through the Pain
My first summer after college was also my first trip to the beach alone with friends, no parents along. Five of us piled into a ’66 Mustang and shared a room in a Padre Island motel. The first day, we strolled along the sand, looking for the perfect spot to spread beach towels and boy watch.
Boy, did we watch, everything except each other as our skin fried. Two of us ended up with serious sunburns, bad enough to blister and peel. We had to stay in the shade for the next few days, missing out on a big piece of our sun and fun fantasy. If sunscreen ever came up in beach movies, I missed it!
Another time, a friend’s mother missed or ignored a warning about avoiding sun while taking a particular medication. She and her grotesquely swollen lips became a never-to-be-forgotten lesson on taking that warning seriously.
Sometimes You’re Prey
One summer, I was walking on a Caribbean island, watching the sun rise golden over the water. A flock of neon-pink flamingos burst from a roadside patch of swamp as I passed. It was sublime! Then the horse flies attacked. I spent the rest of that walk slapping and beating at the not-so-little monsters.
Bug bites are another summertime hazard that can lead to unfortunate complications. My younger sister would scratch mosquito bites until they turned into ugly, oozing sores. Her tanned legs ended up dotted with scars.
Try this trick: if you get a bug bite, slap the bite mark. The sting will ease the itch until you can get some aloe or other product on it. And never scratch the bites. For one thing, bacteria under your nails can infect the bite spot, turning a short-term itch into a long-term scab.
But here is what we should all do first: Use insect repellent. There are all kinds, from DEET-infused jungle strength sprays to creams for those worried about breathing fumes. Find out what works for you. Needless to say, I’m a fan of jungle spray because I really, really hate biting flies and mosquitoes.
Home and Almost Alone
This might not seem like a summer hazard but the same thing happened separately to me and to a friend. When you are home from college, it might seem like a good time to get those wisdom teeth pulled. But remember, just because you’re off for the summer doesn’t mean your parents are.
In my case, my mother asked that same younger sister to pick me up from the dentist, take me to get any prescription filled, get the instructions on what to do for me, take me home and put me to bed. If she did all that, she would get the car for the rest of the day.
She picked me up, all right, and almost dumped me at the curb. I was out of it from the anesthetic and went straight to sleep. By the time my mom got home, my face was swollen all the way up to my eyelids. It was so bad, I went in to my waitressing job so they could see I wasn’t kidding about not being able to work. It took days for that swelling to go down.
The same thing happened to my friend, so all we can say is summer surgery can be hazardous if you don’t have someone prepared to take care of you.
One of the adjustments college students have to make, especially that first summer home, is that while you might slide into the kid role again, your family might be seeing you as an adult. They could start expecting you to think of sunscreen and bug repellent. Surgery is another matter. I only hope you, too, don’t end up abandoned.