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     Volume 7 Issue 31 | August 1, 2008 |

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Be Safe Not Sorry

Shara Azad

Living in Bangladesh, we all know that we should only be drinking boiled, filtered water due to the high risk of cholera and other such waterborne diseases. However, during the summer it is especially important that we are careful about what we eat and drink. The high temperatures combined with the fact that we are on the brink of monsoon season means that a whole other slew of diseases are upon us or are more prevalent than usual, requiring all citizens to exercise extra vigilance to keep themselves safe.

Obviously, with the heat comes sunburn, a pesky, sometimes itchy, little problem. Those of us who are a bit tanner may feel as though they are not susceptible to this vexation, thanks to a genetic abundance of melanin; however, no one is ever entirely protected against skin cancer. The best we people of all shades can do is apply and reapply sun block (preferably a type with a high SPF, around 30 or 40, anything more is a marketing gimmick) every few hours when we are outdoors.

Sun block will not prevent heat exhaustion and dehydration though, two other common sun-related afflictions. Really, none of us should be out in the scorching, blazing rays for hours without an indoor or shady reprieve every thirty minutes or so. Additionally, we must remember to remain hydrated during these sizzling days. Instead of eight glasses of water, we should be drinking ten, keeping in mind, of course, that this water is of the boiled, filtered kind.

Water purification is also especially important during monsoon season. Heavy rains cause erosion, which often washes the garbage of the streets right into our water source, causing even more contamination. Moreover, we must pay further attention to food preparation during the summer months. While it may be tempting to buy some mouth watering guava from a street vendor, if that guava was washed in tap water, you might be making several trips to the bathroom in the near future. Raw fruits and vegetables should be eaten with extreme caution if they are not cleaned and cut at home. Essentially, think twice before ordering a salad at a restaurant this summer, lest you catch Hepatitis A, typhoid, dysentery, or one of the several other diseases that come from contaminated water or faulty food preparation.

While on the topic of food preparation, it must be noted that dairy products are another high-risk item this particular season. Milk turns rotten quickly in the heat, so although the dahi phuchka might have been delicious when you ordered it, you will not be singing its praises after a bout of explosive diarrhoea. Truly, if we were all to double- check expiration dates at home and preservation techniques at restaurants (especially for milk products, which must be kept refrigerated), we would not be sorry. After all, isn't an ounce of prevention worth a pound of cure?

To add to the list, egg products and undercooked meat are questionable items, since our favorite bacteria, salmonella, thrive in the heat. I, for example, once travelled in a hot bus for seven hours during a class trip, and for lunch, I had stupidly packed a sandwich drenched in homemade mayonnaise, which is made of raw eggs, something known often to have salmonella. In the boiling hot bus, the salmonella massively proliferated, and after I ate the sandwich for lunch, I seriously spent the entire night sick to my stomach. I wish someone had told me about salmonella then!

Basically, be safe, not sorry. Certainly, no one will be able to check every item they eat without becoming completely paranoid or seemingly, a hypochondriac, but if we all use a combination of our common sense with knowledge of what could go wrong, we will save ourselves from innumerable illnesses. At the International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease and Research, Bangladesh (ICDDR, B), patient counts peak in September, right after summer and monsoon season. However, if those patients had the knowledge to exercise a little more caution in the heat and rain, perhaps they would not have to go to the hospital in the first place. Therefore, while you should enjoy your summer to the fullest, since these holidays only come around once a year, be careful about what you ingest. You (and your body) certainly will not regret it!

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