Bermuda’s high humidity, coupled with blistering summer temperatures—in the high 90s for much of July and August—can lead to severe sunburns, dehydration, and sunstroke. Regardless of your skin tone, wear sunscreens with high SPF content; some brands, such as Australia’s Bullfrog, make waterproof sunblock of SPF 30 or higher, which protects your skin from harmful UVA and UVB rays for hours, even if you’re sweating or in the water.
If you’re not accustomed to the heat, cover up. Wear light clothing of natural fibers like cotton or silk that will covers easy-to-burn or overexposed areas. Arms, hands, and shoulders can burn while driving a scooter, and even moped passengers end up sporting lobster-red knees and feet after sitting in the same position under scorching skies. Protect your face, including eyes and lips, with shades, a sun hat, and lip balm with sunblock. If you do get too much sun, slather on aloe creams or place paper towels soaked in vinegar on the affected region (an island remedy to draw the heat out). Then try to skip a day or two’s beaching to let your skin recover; visit a museum or go shopping instead.
Stay hydrated in hot weather by drinking lots of water throughout the day, especially if you’re exercising. Bermuda’s humidity, regularly in the 80 and 90 percent zone, can make it feel like you’re moving around inside a greenhouse. Dehydration’s onset—including heavy sweating, cramps, and dizziness—mean it’s time to get out of the sun to let your body rest. Heat stroke, a potentially fatal condition, happens when the body’s self-regulating thermometer shuts down completely. Symptoms include severe headaches and delirium. Get emergency aid and keep heat-stroke patients as cool as possible. Bermuda’s hospital emergency department has intravenous treatment to speedily rehydrate and reenergize heat-stroke victims with electrolytes and water.
Keep children well protected from the sun, especially toddlers, who are often oblivious to the sun, or youngsters who may not complain about burns until the damage is done. Reapply sunscreen often, particularly if you are swimming, and take a large water bottle to the beach. Many adults and kids in Bermuda wear UV-protective clothing, including hats, bodysuits, and long-sleeved, high-necked tops made of swimsuit fabric to guard against months of destructive sun exposure at the beach or on the water. One local company, Groovy UV (tel. 441/232-0527, www.groovy-uv.com ), operated by Bermudian sailors Debbie and Adam Barboza, offers a full range of colorful outfits for all ages, including UV goggles and board shorts.
AIDS/HIV is not a large threat in Bermuda, but it exists nonetheless, along with less severe sexually transmitted diseases such as gonorrhea, syphilis, and genital warts. Condoms can be purchased in all the island’s drugstores. If you have questions or need information about AIDS/HIV while in Bermuda, contact the Allan Vincent Smith Foundation (2 Bermuda House Ln., tel. 441/295-6882, hotline tel. 441/295-0002, www.avsf.bm ), a local information provider on AIDS/HIV.
Bermuda has no truly dangerous wildlife—no scorpions, snakes, nor even sharks close to shore. (Sharks do frequent local waters but are seen rarely inshore and are almost always docile species. As a result, there has not been a reported shark attack in more than 50 years.) The few hazards that do exist are not serious, and mostly of the insect variety.
Mosquitoes are irritating outdoor pests on summer evenings, and during the day in areas where they breed. Wear a repellent in areas near ponds or marshland, for example, and after dark when they are prevalent. Bermuda’s subtropical climate is also conducive to flea infestations; responsible pet-owners treat cats and dogs regularly with prescription flea-killers that stop the little parasites from infestation. Bermuda has no ticks.
American cockroaches (the large, flying type)—euphemistically dubbed “palmetto bugs” in Florida—can be seen everywhere at night throughout the hot summer months, even on the walls inside elegant homes. They are rather frightening apparitions upon first encounter, but they are harmless; window screens usually serve to keep them outdoors. Savvy scooter riders appreciate shades or, better still, helmets with visors, to keep wayward flying insects from face collisions.
Ants by the thousands are a byproduct of summer and are especially apparent after severe storms or hurricanes. Again, they are harmless, but a nuisance. To keep their numbers down, avoid leaving dirty dishes around, including pet bowls, and conquer invasions with a simple household tool: the vacuum cleaner. Some also swear by lemon sprays and baby powder.
The St. David’s centipede, or giant centipede, which can grow to a foot in length, is rarely seen these days, but it can inflict a mild bite, so avoid it if you happen to spot one.
Poison ivy, (Rhus radicans), grows wild in parks and brush areas of the island, including off-trail parts of Paget Marsh  and other nature reserves. Stay on boardwalks or main trails to avoid it. Rash, blisters, and itchiness break out once you have been exposed to the plant, but they usually disappear without treatment within a couple of weeks. Use cool compresses or an antihistamine to soothe the itching.