Summer holidays – fun in the sun, holiday romances, surfing, movies and parties. Is that the picture in your head? That's fine and let's face it, you deserve some fun after a hard year's work and those exams in the boiling summer heat.
But take care – things can go wrong while you're having fun in the sun. Here are some things to keep in mind this summer.
Don't burn yourself into a cinder. The sun is dangerous and can do real damage to your skin. Who wants to be old before their time or have problems with skin cancer? Wear sunblock when you just venture outside.
Don't get your heart broken. Summer holidays are notorious for holiday romances. These can be great fun, but don't have any long-term expectations. Many people who had holiday romances are asking "What was I thinking?" by February. Have fun, but don't get your heart too involved. Many people also find out after the holiday that the object of their affections indeed has a girlfriend or boyfriend at home.
Don't turn into a blimp. There's a lot of food – junk and otherwise – around over the festive season. Just be aware of how much you're eating and take note if you suddenly cannot close the zip of your jeans. Don't let it spoil your holiday, though. Start going for a brisk walk every day and eat one doughnut instead of three.
Don't get pregnant. This happens so easily. And yes, you can get pregnant from having sex the first time. For heaven's sake, take precautions if you're going to have sex. Don't just drift into and then say that you couldn't help it. If you think condoms are unromantic, try changing a baby's nappy at 2 a.m. while all your friends are out partying.
Don't do drugs. Drugs simply are not cool, whatever your friends say. The bottom line is, you could kill yourself – not twenty years down the line, but this summer. Just don't even go there. If you doubt this, phone the emergency ward of the local hospital to hear a few horror stories.
Don't break your neck. Many youngsters have landed in wheelchairs after jumping or diving into shallow pools of water, or falling off the backs of open bakkies. Take care – one moment of bad judgement can affect the rest of your life.
Don't become HIV-positive. You only need to have unprotected sex once with someone who is HIV-positive for this to happen. And you can't see when someone is HIV-positive. Often they don't even know themselves. Don't have sex without a condom – this rule should never be broken.
Don't hit the bottle. A beer or two with friends can probably do no harm – that's if you're not driving. But if you binge drink – especially to the point of memory loss – heaven knows what you did or others did with you while you were beyond repair. Just be careful that no one spikes your drink – especially if you're in a club or at a party. Stranger things have happened.
Don't hitchhike. Especially late at night. This is downright dangerous, even if you're not alone. There are numerous cases of people who were last seen getting into strangers' cars. Either stay put, or phone someone to fetch you or take a taxi if you've got the money – but don't be tempted to ask a stranger for a lift.
Don't be idle. Find a job or some informal way of making money. You're going to need cash to do all the things you want to do. And you can't expect your parents to fork out hundreds for your entertainment.
(Susan Erasmus, Health24, updated June 2010)