Special Alert from Alicare Medical Management: Summer Health Hazards
Before you head outside to enjoy summertime sun and fun, make sure you turn up the heat on your knowledge and treatment of common hazards to protect your family from unnecessary discomfort or more serious health conditions. Protection from the harsh rays of the sun, fending off insects bites and staying hydrated may seem like basic words of advice, but our medical experts will vouch that a scalding sunburn or trip to the ER will dampen anyone’s summer day or vacation.
Sunburn: Prevention and Treatment
According to the American Cancer Society, everyone is at risk for skin cancer, especially people with light skin color, light hair or eye color, a family history of skin cancer, chronic sun exposure, a history of sunburns early in life, or freckles.
The best way to prevent sunburn is to avoid exposure to the sun, especially during peak hours. The sun is at its strongest during midday—which is from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. If you can’t avoid being in the sun, sunscreen helps to protect your skin while you are soaking up the rays. Follow the application directions on the label so it is as effective as possible in protecting your skin from the sun’s ultraviolet rays.
Lips are also vulnerable to the sun’s rays – use a lip balm or cream with an SPF of 15 or higher to protect your lips from getting sunburned or developing cold sores. Remember, sunscreen should be reapplied every two to three hours as well as after swimming or sweating. Perspiration and swimming in the water diminishes the SPF value of sunscreen.
In most cases, home treatment may provide adequate relief from mild sunburn. Our experts advise:
Using cool cloths on sunburned areas;
Taking frequent cool showers and baths; and
Applying lotions that contain Aloe Vera.
Once the pain of the burn has subsided, some skin peeling may occur. This is simply part of the healing process—lotion may help relieve the itching, but there isn’t much that can be done about the peeling skin.
Sunburn not only irritates the skin, but it can also cause a mild fever and headache as a result of dehydration. If you experience these symptoms, relax in a cool, quiet room to relieve the headache and drink plenty of fluids. Remember to protect yourself from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays this summer and avoid potentially painful and damaging burns.
Heat Rash and Heat Illness: Symptoms, Prevention & Treatment
Heat rash and illness often go hand-in-hand with sunburn. Heat rash is a skin irritation caused by excessive sweating. At its worst, heat rash interrupts the body’s heat-regulating system causing fever and heat exhaustion and, in rare cases, death.
Heat rash is the result of sweat ducts becoming blocked, and usually presents as tiny bumps in folds of the skin where fabric rubs against the body. To avoid it, don’t use heavy ointments and creams that can block sweat ducts. Rather, choose oil-free sunscreens and select breathable clothing. If you develop heat rash, get out of the heat, apply cold compresses, and use an over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream to alleviate the itching.
Normally, the brain regulates body temperature by increasing blood flow to the skin and inducing sweating. When the body’s cooling system malfunctions, heat illness occurs, and core body temperature increases. Left untreated, heat exhaustion can lead to heat stroke. Serious heat-related symptoms include headaches, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, rapid heartbeat, and temperatures as high as 107 degrees F. In the most severe cases of heat illness, the kidneys, liver, and brain may be damaged as proteins in the body break down. About 400 people die each year from heat stroke, according to the CDC.
Prevention and treatment
The best way to avoid heat illness is to stay out of the heat and in the air conditioning. If you do not have air conditioning, visit public facilities such as libraries, and beat the midday – the hottest part of the day – heat. Fans can be helpful, but not nearly as much as air conditioning.
It’s also important to limit strenuous activities in hot weather by doing them in the early morning or evening when temperatures are cooler.
Water and sports drinks are good for hydration, but avoid juices and soda. If you begin showing signs of heat illness, lie down in a cool place and elevate your legs. Wet towels, cool water and a fan can help with cooling down until emergency help arrives.
Lyme disease is the most common tick-borne disease in the Northern Hemisphere. It is caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi. The disease is carried by black-legged deer ticks, and is transmitted to humans via a bite. Early symptoms of the disease include headache, fatigue, fever, muscle aches, stiff joints, depression, and a circular skin rash called erythema migrans, that resembles a bull’s-eye or wheel around the bite location.
Patients with Lyme disease likely will not present with all of the symptoms, which can impact multiple body systems. The incubation period from infection to symptom onset is between one and two weeks. If the infection is caught early, the symptoms can often be eliminated by antibiotics. Left untreated, symptoms may impact the joints, heart and central nervous system.
The disease is diagnosed clinically based on symptoms, physical findings (such as the bull’s-eye rash), as well as with serological blood tests.
Protective clothing, including long-sleeved shirts, hats and long pants tucked into socks or boots are recommended when venturing out into wooded areas. There are several tick repellents on the market, and although they are not 100% effective in warding off ticks, they are recommended to reduce the likely hood of being bitten.
Check yourself and your children for ticks before bedtime or after being out in the woods. Attached ticks should be removed promptly to remove transmission rates; a tick generally has to be on the skin for 36 hours to transmit Lyme disease. Ticks can be removed by grasping with tweezers as close to the skin as possible and pulling gently and firmly.
Mosquitos have been around for 170 million years, and remain a nuisance in the summer months. Mosquitos are attracted to carbon dioxide, which people emit, and can sense it from impressive distances. Their bites leave behind an itchy, red welt.
Whether you’re spending a short time in the backyard or going on a hike in the woods, plan on wearing insect repellent. The CDC recommends using products containing active ingredients which have been registered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for use as repellents applied to the skin and clothing. Suggested products include:
DEET (Chemical Name: N,N-diethyl-m-toluamide or N,N-diethly-3-methyl-benzamide)
Picaridin (KBR 3023, Chemical Name: 2-(2-hydroxyethyl)-1-piperidinecarboxylic acid 1-methylpropyl ester )
Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus* or PMD (Chemical Name: para-Menthane-3,8-diol) the synthesized version of oil of lemon eucalyptus
Even peskier than the mosquitos themselves are the annoying bites they leave behind. The itch is caused by the mosquito’s saliva, an anticoagulant. It causes the body to produce a histamine response, and often a raised welt-like bump. To reduce the potential for severe itching, clean the bite area with rubbing alcohol, alcohol wipes or plain water as soon as possible after being bitten.
Tips to avoid mosquito bites:
Use insect repellent
Wear protective clothing
Avoid peak mosquito hours, which are from dusk to dawn for many species.
In addition to irritating bites, some mosquitos also transmit West Nile virus. West Nile is a mosquito-borne illness that produces mild flu-like symptoms in healthy people, but can be serious in older demographics and those with weak immune systems. Although many people bitten by an infected mosquito won’t get sick—since 1999, more than 30,000 people in the United States have been reported with West Nile virus.
Warm weather brings more opportunities to enjoy the outdoors—as well as additional health hazards. Before going out for some fun in the sun, remember to take the necessary precautions to stay healthy this summer.