Summer-Related Illnesses or Injuries: How to Prevent Them
What are some of the top summer health risks?
Outdoor summer activities can bring additional risks to the health of you and your family. To prevent unnecessary problems and to be safe, we recommend the following tips:
Bug bites can be itchy, annoying, and can cause diseases like Lyme Disease or West Nile. Avoiding buggy areas, using bug repellant, and wearing long sleeves and pants in areas where there are many bugs can prevent Bug bites.
Tick bites are usually painless, and because they are tiny, many people are unaware that they have been bitten. When doing outside activities, wear light colored clothing, long sleeves and pants. Tuck pants into socks. There are also tick repellants available such as Deet for skin. When coming in from outside activities where you or your children might have encountered ticks, throw clothes into the dryer and set on high heat. Make sure you do a tick check. Ticks should be removed promptly. The longer it is attached the higher the chance of disease transmission. Remove it carefully to prevent disease transmission. Also check your pets for ticks when they come into the house.
Exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) radiation is the primary cause of skin cancer. More than one million people are diagnosed with skin cancer each year. Reduce sun exposure between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. when the suns UV rays are the strongest. It’s important to wear a sunscreen lotion with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30. It’s also important to reapply sunscreen after swimming or exertion. Wear a wide brimmed hat when outdoors. Children should have arms and legs covered when out in the sun.
Heat stroke is a serious medical condition that can be life threatening. During a heat stroke, the body’s core temperature rises much like a fever. You can become confused, experience rapid breathing, and loose consciousness. A victim of a heat stroke needs immediate medical attention. While help arrives, keep the person in a cool area and cover him or her with cool damp sheets. To prevent a heat stroke, you should wear a hat when you are outdoors, drink plenty of water, and, if possible, avoid physical activity in the direct sun.
The best prevention for poison ivy is to wear long sleeves and pants when you are in an area that might have poison ivy. The poison ivy rash develops one to two days after exposure. Calamine lotion can be very soothing for the itchy rash. The fastest and cheapest treatment to temporarily soothe pain and itching is plain ice. If you have weeping or blisters, applying ice is not advised. For dry skin without blisters, it is safe to place a cube directly on the irritated skin for about one minute. The coolness of the ice helps soothe itching, if only temporarily. Without a prescription, you can buy oral antihistamines to control itching and many soothing topical lotions are available. For severe cases, when the rash is all over the body, on the face, or blistering, you may need to visit your doctor for antihistamines, topical or oral steroids, all of which can effectively treat the rash and itching.
UV radiation will not only damage your skin, but it can damage your eyes which can lead to cataracts and age-related macular degeneration. It’s important when you are in the sunlight to wear sunglasses that filter out UV light.
Picnics and food left outside can cause bacteria, which can lead to food poisoning. Virus and parasites can also cause food poisoning. Food poisoning can cause nausea, cramps, vomiting, and diarrhea. To avoid food poisoning, make sure you are eating food that is hygienically prepared; always wash your hands before eating; and don’t allow food to stay out in the summer heat for a long period of time.
Dehydration can occur during summer months due to excessive sweating, especially during physical activity or exercise. Some symptoms of dehydration are dry mouth, muscle cramps, nausea, vomiting, and heart palpitations. Fluid replacement is the primary treatment for dehydration. Drink additional water in hot or humid weather, and in case of excessive sweating, drink electrolyte water to replace vital nutrients.
Pool, Lake, River, and Ocean Swimming Safety
Swimming is a great way to cool off, but there are hazards such as drowning and water born disease. In pools, insist on life jackets for children who can’t swim; make sure water is clear and free of leaves and insects; and find a first-aid kit and make sure there is a flotation ring to throw to a distressed swimmer. For non-pool swimming areas, stay within designated swimming areas which are usually marked by ropes and buoys; don’t swim in polluted water; test the water depth before diving; don’t fight a strong current… swim parallel to the shore until you feel the current relax, then gradually swim to shore; wear sandals or shoes on the beach; and steer clear of plant and animal life.
By Amber Schmidt, DO
Amber Schmidt is a primary care physician at Weeks Medical Center specializing in caring for the whole family, including children and adults. For more information or for an appointment, please call 603-788-5095.