Summer is a time for fun in the sun, but it’s also a time when many people are at risk for common health issues. It’s important to know what these afflictions are and what you can do to protect yourself. Here are some of the most common summer health problems and how to avoid them.
Sunburn is a common summer illness that can be quite painful. It occurs when the skin is overexposed to the sun’s UV rays. Sunburn can result in redness, swelling, and blistering of the skin. In severe cases, sunburn can lead to fever, headache, and chills. To avoid sunburn, it is important to apply sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 and to reapply it every two hours. You should also wear protective clothing like hats and long-sleeved shirts. If you do get sunburned, cool the affected area with cold compresses, take pain relievers like acetaminophen, and drink plenty of fluids to help prevent dehydration.
2. Heat exhaustion
Heat exhaustion is another common summer illness that occurs when the body overheats. It can happen when you are exposed to high temperatures for a long time, especially if you are doing physical activity. Symptoms of heat exhaustion include dizziness, nausea, headache, weakness, and fatigue. To prevent heat exhaustion, it’s important to stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water, and to take breaks in the shade or air conditioning when possible. If you do experience symptoms of heat exhaustion, move to a cool place, loosen tight clothing, and drink cool water or sports drinks.
Dehydration occurs when the body loses more fluids than it takes in. This can happen when you’re sweating a lot in the summer heat. Symptoms of dehydration include dry mouth, headache, dizziness, and fatigue. In severe cases, dehydration can lead to confusion, rapid heartbeat, and even seizures. To avoid dehydration, make sure to drink plenty of water throughout the day, even if you don’t feel thirsty. You can also drink sports drinks to replace lost electrolytes. Avoid sugary drinks and alcohol, as they can make dehydration worse.
4. Food poisoning
Food poisoning is a risk anytime of the year, but it’s especially common in the summer when people are cooking and eating outdoors. Bacteria can grow quickly in hot and humid weather, and food that has been left out for too long can become contaminated. To avoid food poisoning, make sure to wash your hands before and after handling food, and to cook meat to the proper temperature. Use a food thermometer to ensure that meat is cooked to an internal temperature of 165°F (74°C). It’s also important to keep food refrigerated until you’re ready to cook or eat it. If you do experience symptoms of food poisoning, like nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, or fever, seek medical attention right away.
5. Insect bites and stings
Summer is a time when insects like mosquitos and bees are out in full force. Insect bites and stings can be painful and can also transmit diseases like West Nile virus and Lyme disease. To avoid insect bites, wear insect repellent and protective clothing like long pants and sleeves. Use EPA-registered insect repellents with active ingredients like DEET, picaridin, or oil of lemon eucalyptus. If you do get stung, remove the stinger and apply a cold compress to reduce swelling. If you experience symptoms like difficulty breathing, swelling of the face or throat, or rapid heartbeat, seek medical attention right away.
6. Swimmer’s ear
Swimmer’s ear is an infection of the outer ear that is caused by water getting trapped in the ear canal. It’s common in the summer when people spend time swimming. Symptoms of swimmer’s ear include ear pain, itching, redness, and discharge from the ear. To prevent swimmer’s ear, dry your ears thoroughly after swimming and avoid swimming in dirty or contaminated water. You can also use over-the-counter ear drops to help dry out your ears. If you do experience symptoms of swimmer’s ear, like pain or discharge from the ear, see a healthcare provider for treatment.
7. Poison ivy, oak, and sumac
These plants can cause an itchy rash when the skin comes into contact with the sap or leaves. The rash can be red, swollen, and blistered, and can last up to three weeks. To avoid getting a rash, learn to recognize these plants and avoid them. If you do come into contact with them, wash the affected area with soap and water as soon as possible. You can also use over-the-counter creams or lotions to help relieve itching and inflammation. If you experience symptoms like difficulty breathing or swelling of the face or throat, seek medical attention right away.
Summer is a time for fun and relaxation, but it’s also when many people are at risk for common afflictions. By taking precautions like wearing sunscreen, staying hydrated, and avoiding contaminated water and plants, you can protect yourself from these problems and enjoy all that summer has to offer. If you do experience any of these symptoms, as well as fevers, rashes, or difficulties breathing, don’t hesitate to seek medical attention. With a little bit of knowledge and preparation, you can have a safe and healthy summer season.