George Gershwin’s song, “Summertime” proclaimed, “Summertime, and the living is easy; Fish are jumping, and the cotton is high.”
Everybody loves summer – right? And rightfully so. It may be a throwback to school days when we looked forward to the last day of class and the three-month reprieve from readin’, writin’ and ‘rithmatic. Going barefooted, heading to the swimming pool, maybe even going to the beach.
Ah, the beach. That was the highlight of summer back in the day. The worst thing we had to be concerned about was sunburn or stepping on a crab or a catfish. And we didn’t give much thought to those. Pleasures of the surf washed away worry.
Maybe we didn’t understand the risks. Perhaps they weren’t as severe as today – except the occasional hurricane – which was just another rainy day to us kids. But there are a few things to think about, and at the risk of being called a fear-monger and banished from the coast by several chambers of commerce, I’m going to mention a few that you might want to consider.
Sunburn is real, and can cause several days of blistering discomfort, but that’s why they invented sunscreen. Use it! And use your head. Stay out of the hottest part of the day, if you can. And “hottest” leads to another occasionally overlooked calamity – especially when you’re having fun. Heat can be a killer.
The Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta warns that over 600 people die from heat every year. And it creeps up on ya. High humidity keeps sweat from evaporating quickly, and this keeps heat inside. It’s worse on people over 65, little kids and those ill. And despite last week’s delightful cool front, Texas is HOT. Keep drinking WATER- thirsty or not. Stay in air-conditioning as much as possible. Exercise early or late, not at mid-day! Water-walking in a swimming pool works for me.
Hot weather at the coast leads to another real threat – vibrio vulnificus. Pronounce that anyway you choose. When Gulf waters heat up, as now, vibrio seems to get worse. It’s transmitted to humans by eating shellfish, especially raw oysters, during hot months, or getting around oyster reefs with cuts or abrasions on skin. Eating oysters is dangerous in months without an “R”. Also, September/October. If you must wade, apply liquid bandage to wounds (including fishhook punctures) beforehand.
Why? Because it can kill ya. Or lead to amputations. A man from San Marcos died in June from the flesh-eating bacteria after a coastal fishing trip. According to a CBS account, he became shaky and disoriented. Red or swollen skin, dizziness, fever and pain are symptoms. Texas has 15-35 cases/year. Clean and disinfect areas exposed to saltwater or handling seafood. Get to a doctor immediately!
Lastly, a report from Environment Texas released July 23, 2019 says 141 Texas beaches had water pollution levels that put swimmers at risk of sickness. Houston is already considering fixing aging sewer systems.
John Jefferson is a lifelong outdoorsman, former regulations coordinator at Texas Parks and Wildlife Dept., past executive director of the Texas Chapter of The Wildlife Society, and author of two books on Texas hunting.