Once summer arrives you probably hear more health tips and recommendations than you want to. Many experts, including us, are especially quick to remind people to stay hydrated, to take steps to avoid heat stroke during particularly hot days, and to use sunscreen regularly and properly whenever you leave your house. Unfortunately, these three points are just the beginning of the season’s potential health hurdles.
As much as we all love the summer months and the activities that come with them, we see far too many patients dealing with this season’s most common health woes. And we would prefer that each of you enjoy your summer safely and happily, without having to visit us for any more than a regular check-up! To help you do just that, we’ve put together a list of 5 common seasonal health issues that you could run into this summer – and included tips on how to prevent and deal with them:
1) Poison ivy or poison oak reactions. Chances are that you’ve had at least one encounter with poison ivy or poison oak before. About 85% of the population is allergic to the oil that’s found in plants like these. That makes this the most common allergic reaction in the U.S. – and while you can have a reaction in the winter as well, it doesn’t help that these plants are in full bloom during the summer months. Your best bet is to avoid these poisonous plants, and to protect your skin when you go out so that you reduce your chances of having a reaction to them. If you do find yourself dealing with a reaction, you can treat most swelling and itching symptoms at home (but you should still visit a doctor if the rash spreads to your face, if the rash appears infected, or if you develop a fever).
2) Tick bites and Lyme disease. We’ve talked about Lyme disease a lot so far this summer, and for good reason: this illness is becoming all too common across the state. The number of cases in Allegheny County alone hit triple digits in 2014, compared to when we just saw 20 cases in the area in 2003. Because of these increasing numbers, it’s important to actively work to prevent tick bites this summer. You should also monitor for signs of tick bites and Lyme disease alike after enjoying an outdoor activity – just in case!
3) Breathing problems and asthma attacks. While we associate the summer with clear skies and sunshine, air quality can actually suffer considerably during this time of the year. Smog, air pollution, pollen levels and mold growth in particular can contribute to a seasonal spike in breathing problems and contribute to your risk of dealing with an asthma attack. Because of this, it’s important for individuals who are prone to these issues to regularly take any prescribed medications that address pulmonary issues, to follow their doctors’ advice, and to monitor daily pollen and air pollution levels. Doing so will help keep your lungs and airways as clear as possible during the remainder of the summer.
4) Swimmer’s ear. A quick look at the news shows that it has not been a good summer for swimming pools so far. Unfortunately, even without recent news coverage, swimming pools were already known for contributing to an infection of the outer ear canal known as otitis externa – or, less technically, as swimmer’s ear. The good news is that this potentially painful ear condition can usually be prevented if you dry your ears thoroughly after swimming (or even showering) and if you follow general ear care guidelines.
5) Food poisoning. Foodbourne illnesses are extremely common during the summer months, when the heat contributes to a higher level of bacteria growth in our food. While some people can shake food poisoning off relatively quickly, it can be dangerous for children or elderly adults, especially if they have a weakened immune system or live with a chronic condition. To prevent food poisoning, keep perishable foods refrigerated or in a cooler with ice – and remember that food that has been sitting out for more than two hours (or one hour, if it’s hotter than 90 degrees Fahrenheit that day) may not be safe to eat.
These five summer health hazards can each create discomfort and put a damper on your summer fun. Fortunately, by knowing how to prevent and address each of them, you can work on avoiding their negative side effects, and can focus on enjoying your summer vacation instead. We hope that the tips we’ve listed here help – and if you do need any asisstance at any point, don’t hesitate to get in touch with your Genesis Medical doctor!