New to Florida? Be Happy, Stay Healthy!
Health Tips Courtesy of
Welcome to the Sunshine State! Besides our wonderful, warm weather and abundance of beaches, lakes, and outdoor activities, there are certain things you need to keep in mind as a new Florida resident — things you may not have had to concern yourself with up to this point.
People who have never had allergies in their lives may experience them for the first time in Florida. There are a variety of trees and weeds that are allergy producers and may affect your sinuses year-round in Florida, such as ragweed, oak birch, sweet gum, juniper, bayberry, and the Groundsel tree, a native plant that is a severe allergen for some people.
Keep in mind your age may have something to do with your stuffy nose or lack thereof. As we get older, we lose sensitivity to allergies.
If allergies do act up, an antihistamine or eye drops usually help. You can also keep windows closed in your home, and avoid outdoor activity between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., when pollen is at its peak. Pollen also stays on clothes, so be sure to do laundry if your eyes are watering when you come in from outside. Spring and summer are high allergy seasons in Florida.
According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, alligators are found in all the state’s 67 counties in marshes, swamps, rivers and lakes. Remember, they were here first.
- Never feed alligators — it’s dangerous and illegal.
- When fed, alligators can begin to associate people with food.Alligators are most active between dusk and dawn.
- Don’t allow pets to swim, exercise, or drink in or near waters that may contain alligators.
- Do not swim with your dog.
If you encounter an alligator you believe poses a threat, call the Nuisance Alligator Hotline at866.FWC.GATOR.
Fleas And Ticks
While fleas and ticks are a problem throughout the United States, Florida does not have a flea and tick season — they can live here year-round. Monthly flea and tick applications for your pets are highly recommended to keep infestations at bay. It is also a good idea to have lawns treated. While fleas are simply bothersome to people, ticks can transmit Lyme Disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, and ehrlichiosis. However, just a small percentage of ticks transmit disease. If you do develop a fever or rash after being bitten by a tick, seek medical care as soon as possible.
Central Florida begins to see temperatures in the 90s with relative high humidity in May. That’s when heat exhaustion can begin to affect residents, especially young children, the elderly, and anyone who is already sick.
Symptoms include mild muscle cramps and dehydration, and in severe cases it can lead to heat stroke, which in turn causes liver and kidney failure. Heat exhaustion victims should be moved to a cool area — almost everywhere in Florida has air conditioning — and hydrated with electrolytes like Gatorade or Pedialyte. Potato chips or pretzels can help restore salt. If you like to exercise, consider moving your workouts inside (try indoor tracks, gyms, and walks in the mall to beat the heat).
Speaking of extreme heat, NEVER leave your pet in a car in the Florida heat unattended, even if the windows are cracked. A study by the Animal Protection Institute showed that even moderately warm temperatures outside can quickly lead to deadly temperatures inside a closed car: as high as 115 degrees within an hour.
Florida is the lightning capital of the United States. "If thunder roars, go indoors” is a serious, life-saving expression in the Sunshine State. According to FloridaDisaster.org, Florida averages six deaths and 39 injuries a year due to lightning strikes. While most people struck by lightning are not killed, many suffer burns to their skin and, in some cases, cardiac arrest. If you witness a person being struck by lightning, remember that they do not carry an electrical charge after the strike and emergency medical treatment should be performed immediately.
Mosquitoes, like sunshine and warm weather, are a given in Florida, and for the most part, they are just harmless, bothersome insects. However, from July through October (the peak transmission period for the West Nile virus), residents and visitors need to take precautions in order to prevent mosquito bites, especially when the Florida Department of Heath confirms cases of the virus found in humans.
The virus spreads when mosquitoes bite infected birds. The mosquitoes in turn spread the virus to humans and other animals. During peak periods:
- Avoid activity in areas where potentially infective mosquitoes are present.
- Wear long sleeves and pants outdoors.
- Consider staying indoors at dawn, dusk, and early evening — peak mosquito biting hours.
- Place mosquito netting over infant carriers/strollers when outdoors.
- Remove standing water from around the home.
You will notice that in Florida there are a lot of pools. You may even be the proud owner of a beautiful pool in your own backyard. While these are wonderful amenities to homes in the Sunshine State, they can be dangerous and fatal to young children. Always keep a 24/7 watch on any child near a pool; it only takes a few seconds for a child to wander into a pool. According to FloridaSafePools.com, most drownings occur when children have access to the water directly from the house. The Florida Department of Health reports that unintentional drowning is the leading cause of death of one- to four-year-olds in Florida every year. It is good practice in Florida to enroll children in local swimming safety classes.
To be safe, consider these options at home:
- Pool safety fencing with self-closing, self-latching gates;
- Door & window alarms;
- Childproof locks;
- Pool alarms;
- Pool cover or net; and
- Locking pet doors;
Florida code has specific residential swimming pool barrier requirements, including a four-foot fence, free of gaps and away from the water’s edge. Entry must open outward and have a self-closing and self-locking device that is beyond a child's reach. Check with a local pool company or government office for more specifics.
Spiders And Snakes
In Florida, there are only two types of venomous spiders: widow spiders and recluse. Both types of spiders are found in dry, dark, and undisturbed places, usually hidden from view. Both mainly bite when trapped against the skin. Avoid reaching under objects without gloves and be cautios when putting on clothing, gloves, or shoes that have not been worn in a while.
According to the UCF Pegasus Health, if bitten, clean the wound with soap and water, tie a snug bandage above the bite, and elevate the limb to help slow or halt the venom's spread. Put a cold compress over the bite and seek immediate medical attention.
The Eastern diamondback rattlesnake, canebrake rattlesnake, dusky pigmy rattlesnake, Southern copperhead, Florida cottonmouth, and the Eastern coral snake all call Florida home —and all are venomous with bites that can be fatal. The copperhead and canebrake are only found in north Florida. If bitten by a snake, go the hospital immediately. Do not cut open the wound or use a tourniquet or ice or have the victim drink alcohol. Apply suction and keep the bite wound above the heart. Try to remember what the snake looked like and seek medical attention immediately.
People just love to lie in the sun and get that glow that makes them feel good. But as we all know, too much sun can damage the skin, causing premature wrinkling, uneven skin pigmentation, and skin cancer.
Residents are reminded to check their skin every month for changes in the size, texture, or color of a mole.
- Don’t be a sun worshipper. Those days are gone.
- Avoid exposure between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., and shy away from tanning booths and lamps.
- Always wear sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15.
- Use a "broad spectrum sunscreen” that absorbs UVA and UVB rays of the sun.
- Apply sunscreen about 30 minutes before going out in the sun.
- Reapply the same amount of sunscreen every two hours. Reapply immediately after swimming, toweling off, or sweating a lot.
- Buy hats and clothing with a high (50+) Ultraviolet Protection Factor.
- Consider finding a local dermatologist for an annual checkup.
Foot Care (Tile Floors)
If you come from a home with mostly carpet and wood floors, you may notice a difference here in Florida as many homes are adorned with tile. Standing on hard floor surfaces such as concrete, marble, and tile for long periods of time can take a toll on your feet. It can cause body fatigue or foot, leg, and low back pain. These hard surfaces do not give, which causes arches to collapse.
Many new-home builders in Florida are using more wood flooring options; carpet, however, is increasingly associated with allergens and is being installed less. Best bet: Keep your shoes on around the house or get a nice pair of slippers and/or purchase a pair of arch support inserts.