With the cold wisps of winter winds now far behind us, the time has come to peel yourself off the couch and venture back outside. But before you dive headfirst into all those fun activities that summer has to offer, remember that summer brings more with it than just the sun. Yep, there are a number of health hazards that go hand-in-hand with the warmest of the four seasons. Thankfully, you can avoid many of these seasonal hazards by following our summer health care guide.
A sunburn occurs when skin tissue is damaged due to prolonged exposure to UV radiation (not heat) from the sun. UV light is classified intro three energies based on wavelength: UVA, UVB and UVC. UVB and, to a lesser degree, UVA, are thought to contribute to sunburns and can also contribute to skin cancer.
Avoid the sun between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., when UV light is most intense; Wear generous amounts of sunblock that is anti-UVA/UVB and has a SPF 15 rating or higher, reapplying it every 2 hours; Wear hats and other clothing as often as possible.
With regard to the treatment of sunburns, potential remedies include cold compresses with cool water or with Burow’s solution (a mineral mix sold at pharmacies); a cool bath; mild, fragrance-free moisturizers; aloe-based moisturizers; silver sulfadiazine (1% cream) and over-the-counter (OTC) pain-relievers like acetaminophen (Tylenol).
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Heat stroke is a form of hyperthermia (an abnormally elevated body temperature). Although many people may often feel faint or sick during heat waves, true heat stroke is a medical emergency and can be fatal. Classic signs of heat stroke include extremely high core body temperature of up to 106F; hot, red, dry skin; a rapid pulse; rapid breathing; headache; confusion; and possible loss of consciousness.
Plan your activity around the weather (read: check local weather reports prior to leaving the house); Drink lots of water well before and during activity; Wear light-colored, loose-fitted clothing; Avoid exercise, coffee and alcohol in extreme heat.
Call 911 immediately; In the meantime, attempt to cool the victim by moving them into the shade, removing clothing, applying cool or tepid water to the skin, fanning them, and by placing ice packs under the armpits and groin; Rehydrate the victim with water or preferably a sports drink; If the afflicted begins shivering, slow down the cooling process (shivering will increase core temperature).
Insect Bites and Stings
Summertime brings out a host of irritating insects, some of which carry diseases (most notably mosquitoes) and others whose bites or stings bring toxic or allergic reactions. Aside from blood-sucking mosquitoes, ticks, spiders, flies, bees, and wasps round out the list of health-hazardous insects to be on the lookout for during summer months.
Depending on the specific insect, prevention tips will differ, so listing them all is a little impractical. Instead, make sure to do a little homework come summertime: Identify which insects are relevant for where you live and read up on current safety tips for insect repellents (just Google “insect repellent guidelines”). When it comes to mosquitoes, for example, choose a repellent with a lower concentration of DEET (the active repellent ingredient) when protection is needed for shorter periods of time. Knowing which products or concentrations are safe to use for children is also an important piece of information.
Again, treatment methods will vary, but some general tips for a bite/sting are: Apply an ice pack to a bite/sting for 15 to 20 minutes once an hour for the first 6 hours and elevate the area to decrease swelling. For symptom relief, try a non-prescription medicine like an oral antihistamine, such as Benadryl (not for children under 1 year); a local anaesthetic spray containing benzocaine; hydrocortisone 0.5% cream or calamine lotion applied to the skin (not for children under 2 years); or other pain-killers such as ibuprofen (Advil), acetaminophen (Tylenol) and ASA (aspirin.)
Rashes in the summer are often a skin reaction caused by contact with a poisonous plant. The majority of these reactions will be caused by poison ivy, poison oak and poison sumac, which collectively grow almost everywhere in America except for Hawaii, Alaska and some desert areas in the Western U.S. The active irritant in these plants is urushiol, an oil found in their sap.
Learn to recognize these plants and stay away; If you cannot avoid them, wear a long-sleeve pair of pants as well as a shirt, boots and gloves; Don’t burn these plants (the smoke can also be irritating); Try applying barrier skin creams such as bentoquatum-containing lotions.
Wash all exposed areas with any source of cold running water as soon possible to limit spread; Wash your clothing in a washing machine with detergent as well any other items that may have come in contact with the plants; Take a cool shower and apply OTC preparations like calamine lotion or Burow’s solution; Try soaking in a lukewarm bath with an oatmeal or baking soda solution for further relief; Prescription cortisone can halt the reaction if used early. fun in the sunSummer really is a joyous season, often filled with adventure and excitement. Unfortunately, health is a year-round concern. Keep on top of your health and you’ll reap rewards from each of the four seasons.