With the summer season in full swing, most of us want to find as many reasons as we can to spend time outside. More time spent outside though can often mean more risk to our health and wellbeing. Avoid any possible trouble this season by safely preparing for the most common summertime health risks.
In 2017, the National Safety Council reported that excessive heat exposure was the third leading cause of death due to weather related events. When experiencing excessive heat or heat stroke, symptoms aren’t always obvious. It is important to check in with yourself and others if you feel you may be at risk.
Signs of a heat stroke or overexposure can include rapid breathing, headaches, dizziness, confusion, irrational behavior, convulsions, unresponsiveness, or a temperature above 103 degrees. Sweating usually stops and is replaced by skin that is flushed, dry and hot to the touch.
Take immediate action if you or anyone you are with is experiencing signs of a heat stroke or overexposure. Call 911 right away then move the victim to a cool place. Remove unnecessary clothing and cool the victim by immersing their body up to the neck in cold water. If complete immersion isn’t possible, place the victim in a cold shower or cover as much of the body as possible with cold, wet towels. Keep cooling until the victim’s body temperature drops to 101 degrees. Continue to monitor the victim’s breathing and be ready to give CPR if needed.
People who have more risk of experiencing heat stroke include infants and young children, people ages 65 and older, individuals who are overweight, and people who are ill, have chronic health conditions or are on certain medications.
Poison Ivy Dermatitis
Many people can agree that at some point in their life they have experienced or have come close to experiencing the effects of physical contact with poison ivy. Poison ivy dermatitis is the most common reason patients visit urgent care facilities during the summer months.
According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), Poison ivy dermatitis is easier to prevent than it is to treat. Recognizing and avoiding urushiol, poison ivy sap oil, is the most effective way to reduce the risk of coming into contact. It is important to avoid direct contact with the plant, indirect contact such as touching clothing or objects with urushiol on them, and inhalation of particles if the plant is being burned. If you are exposed to poison ivy, immediately wash skin using antibacterials and lots of water. Be sure to also remove and wash all clothing that may have been exposed.
Symptoms of poison ivy dermatitis can include a red rash, swelling, itching, bumps, patches, streaking or weeping blisters. Severe itching can be relieved by applying wet compresses, using calamine lotion or hydrocortisone cream, taking oatmeal baths, or using an antihistamine. In severe cases or if the rash is on the face or genitals, seek professional medical attention.
When participating in outdoor activities this summer, insect repellent is something to always have with you. Various bugs, especially ticks and mosquitoes, can carry and spread diseases that can have lasting consequences.
Depending on your location, mosquitoes can carry diseases such as the West Nile Virus, dengue, Zika, and malaria. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), these illnesses can have severe consequences such as body aches, rash, fever, and even death. The CDC suggests using insect repellent, covering exposed skin, and avoiding bugs where you are staying in order to prevent mosquito bites.
Diseases caused by ticks are most often found in people returning from an outdoor activity. Although there is no vaccine in the United States to prevent illnesses spread by ticks, there are steps you can take to prevent the risk of being bitten. The CDC suggests people dress appropriately, use insect repellent that contains at least 20% DEET, treat clothing and gear in permethrin, and stay out of heavily wooded areas. Be sure to check your body for ticks after each outdoor adventure.
During the summer months, there is in increase in the number of ATV, biking, horseback riding, motorcycle and car accidents according to Cindy Hinshaw, RN, Director of Emergency Services for Watauga Medical Center and Canon Memorial Hospital. When traveling or riding this summer, be sure to wear a helmet and appropriate gear, follow traffic rules, drive or ride defensively, be well rested and don’t drive or ride while impaired.
Whether going for a swim in a pool or a nearby river, it is important to understand how to protect yourself and avoid injuries. According to the CDC, drowning is the leading cause of unintentional injury death among children ages 1-4 years old. In order to avoid any water related accidents, there are ten rules every swimmer should follow.
- Learn to swim.
- Swim with a friend.
- Know your limits.
- Swim in supervised areas only.
- Wear a life jacket when boating.
- Stay alert to currents.
- Keep an eye on the weather.
- Don’t play roughly while in the water.
- Don’t dive into shallow water.
- Don’t float where you can’t swim.
When swimming outdoors, it is very important to wear sunscreen to avoid sunburn or skin cancer. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, swimmers should apply a Broad Spectrum Water Resistant SPF of 30 or higher 30 minutes before getting in the water. Reapply every two hours after swimming or sweating.
As always, if you are experiencing a medical emergency, call 911 or visit your nearest emergency room. For emergencies that are non-life threatening, visit AppFamily Medicine or Baker Center for Primary Care, or Elk River Medical Associates. Happy Summer!