Avoid Health Risks to Fully Enjoy Summer
Dr. Mary Ann Damiani and Dr. Kevin Lai of Premier Suburban Medical Group explain four common summertime hazards
It’s summertime! It’s time for potato salad and hot dogs, golfing and tennis, lazy days at the pool and beach, hikes in the woods and bonfires in the evenings. All those activities can make for a marvelous summer season, but they can also compromise your health if you’re not careful.
Dr. Kaihua (Kevin) Lai and Dr. Mary Ann Damiani of Premier Suburban Medical Group are here to help ensure your summer stays marvelous by giving you some helpful tips to keep your family as healthy as possible until the first leaf falls this autumn.
“We love Grandma’s potato salad,” says Dr. Lai. “But any food with mayonnaise must be kept refrigerated to prevent food poisoning. Other foods that are a concern are ground beef, hot dogs and sausages. These should be thoroughly cooked to an internal temperature of 160˚ to Fresh vegetables and fruits look delicious at the market, but should be washed before eating.”
Food poisoning is common; about 1 in 6 Americans suffer from food poisoning every year. Food poisoning can be caused by bacteria, parasites and viruses. Nearly everyone experiences food poisoning at some time in their life, but it’s especially dangerous for those with compromised immune systems or an auto-immune disease. Young children, the elderly and pregnant women can be more seriously affected by food poisoning as it can cause dehydration.
“Watch for diarrhea, vomiting and cramping in your stomach,” says Dr. Lai. “You may also have a low grade fever, weakness and headache. Drink plenty of water and sports drinks to prevent dehydration. If food poisoning symptoms last longer than 48 hours, it’s time to call our office.”
Soaking up the summer sun sounds relaxing, says Dr. Damiani, but too much sun causes problems. “Sunburn not only causes pain, redness and premature aging, it’s also the major cause of skin cancers including basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma. If you’ve had more than 5 sunburns throughout your life, or a severe burn in childhood, your risk of melanoma doubles.”
“It’s not just a red burn that raises your cancer risk,” says Dr. Damiani. “Many people don’t burn, they just tan. There are also those who get what they call “a little color”or “a little pink”. Whether it’s a tan, a bit of color or a burn, sun exposure causes cellular damage to your skin that builds up over time.”
Unfortunately, there’s no way to reverse that damage, but you can prevent burns in the future. Dr. Damiani recommends wearing water resistant broad spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 and reapplying every few hours. “Stay in the shade, wear a wide-brimmed hat and avoid direct sun as much as possible between the hours of 10 am and 4 pm.”
If you do get a sunburn, get out of the sun immediately and take a cool shower or bath, with a gentle soap if needed. Pat your skin dry and apply a water-based moisturizer while you’re still damp. Keep applying moisturizer for several days to keep skin protected as it heals. Consider taking ibuprofen, naproxen or aspirin to ease pain and any inflammation. Drink plenty of water to keep your skin hydrated. “If you feel dizzy or confused, have a fever or chills, or the burned skin blisters, call our office,” says Dr. Damiani.
The heat of the sun can cause heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Dr. Damiani says, “Heat cramps typically occur when you perform heavy exercise in the heat, especially if you’re not drinking enough water, as heat cramps are a symptom of dehydration. Stop your activity, get into a cool area and drink a sports drink or clear juice. The cramps should ease within an hour.”
Heat exhaustion is more severe than cramps. “People who’ve been doing strenuous activity, whether working or exercising, can experience goose bumps or heavy sweating, light-headedness or dizziness, a rapid weak pulse, and nausea when they have heat exhaustion,” says Dr. Damiani. Relieve heat exhaustion as you would heat cramps; rest, move to a cooler place and drink a sports drink or water.
Heat stroke is the most severe of the heat-induced conditions and can be fatal. “A patient’s core body temperature will be 104˚ or higher, and they often have slurred speech, are confused or delirious. They may have a seizure and may go into a coma,” says Dr. Damiani. Other symptoms include nausea and vomiting, red flushed skin that can be hot and dry or slightly moist, rapid breathing and a racing pulse. The patient may have a throbbing headache.
A person who may have heat stroke needs to be taken to the emergency department immediately. “Call 9-1-1 and then get the person into a cool area while you wait for an ambulance,” says Dr. Damiani. “Cool them down by spraying them with water, putting them in a tub of cool water, or putting cooling packs on the head, neck, armpits and groin area.” Without treatment, heat stroke can cause brain and organ damage and death.
“Listen to your body,” says Dr. Damiani. “Don’t exercise or work in extreme heat. Drink plenty of water or sports drinks to prevent dehydration. At the first sign of cramping or discomfort, stop what you’re doing and move to a cooler area.”
Insects can also put a damper on summer fun. Dr. Lai says, “Mosquitos, ticks and other biting insects can cause infections and carry diseases that compromise health for the long-term. Mosquitos can infect people with West Nile virus, malaria and dengue. Ticks carry Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and other viral diseases.”
“Wearing insect repellant, especially in the morning and evening when bugs are most active, is an effective way to prevent bites. Make sure you’re using a repellant with CDC-recommended ingredients such DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus or IR3535,” says Dr. Lai. Insect repellant should be thoroughly washed off before sleeping, either for naps or at night.
To avoid ticks, stay on paths in wooded areas, recommends Dr. Lai, use repellant and wear long sleeves and long pants tucked into socks when hiking. Before getting into a car or home, brush off clothing, backpacks and gear to get rid of any tagalongs. When you get home, wash all clothes in warm soapy water and do a thorough body check, including arm pits, neck, groin, and behind ears and knees to inspect for ticks before showering.
Fortunately, ticks need about 24-36 hours of attachment to transfer disease,” says Dr. Lai. If you do see a tick that’s latched on to your skin, remove it quickly to prevent infection. “With a clean pair of tweezers positioned as close to the skin as possible, squeeze the tick and remove the entire insect by pulling straight up,” says Dr. Lai. “Wash the area with warm soapy water and pat dry. Over the next several days, if you see any swelling or redness, especially in a “bulls-eye” ring, or experience a fever, chills, muscle aches, headache or fatigue, call our office immediately.”
To ease the discomfort of mosquito bites, wash the bite with soap and water and then apply an ice pack for about 10 minutes. “Over the counter treatments such as antihistamine cream or a paste of baking soda and water can also help relieve swelling and itching,” says Dr. Lai.
Don’t scratch an insect bite of any kind, as this can cause an infection. “When a bite is swollen, red, feels warm or hot, or has a red streak coming from it, call our office,” says Dr. Lai. “You may need treatment with an antibiotic.”
Keeping summer - and your family - safe, healthy and happy can be easy when you practice smart food safety, wear sunscreen and reapply often, drink plenty of fluids, avoid activity in intense heat and wear an EPA-approved insect repellant.
Premier Suburban Medical Group was formed to practice medicine the way it should be, by putting patients first. The primary care and specialists group has offices in Orland Park, Blue Island, Woodridge and Lemont.