Weekly Wellness: Being safe outside in the summer
COLUMBIA - Summer is known for sunshine, swimming pools, parks... so much fun outside! Unfortunately, it can also be a time of seasonal health concerns. This week we're going to investigate some of the more common issues and learn what we can do to avoid them.
Summer can be a dangerous time for kids and adults with asthma. More smog and air pollution, higher pollen levels and increased mold growth due to high humidity can all cause a spike in asthma attacks.
If you are prone to asthma attacks, continue taking your daily controller medications throughout the summer and keep a close eye on pollen and air pollution levels. Also, be diligent about checking air pollution and pollen counts at airnow.gov. If counts are high, stay inside.
Technically known as otitis externa, the common infection called swimmer's ear leads to an estimated 2.4 million doctor's visits and $500 million in health care costs each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
To prevent swimmer's ear, you want to make sure that you dry your ears after swimming and showering. The CDC recommends that you use a towel, tilt your head so one ear faces down to allow water to escape the ear canal. Then gently pull your ear lobe in several directions to help the water drain out. If the water is still stuck, you can use a hair dryer to remove it keep the dryer on the lowest heat setting and hold it several inches away from your head.
Ear care is especially important during the summer months when heat and humidity can fuel the growth of the bacteria and fungi that can cause swimmer's ear. Never stick a cotton swab or other object in your ear.
When the body overheats, hyperthermia can occur. Hyperthermia is a group of heat-related illnesses ranging from heat exhaustion to heat stroke. Older adults are more susceptible to hyperthermia, because people lose some of their ability to dissipate heat as they age.
Chronic medical conditions, such as heart disease, poor circulation and obesity can also hinder a person's ability to cool down. Certain medications, such as those for high blood pressure, heart disease and depression can diminish an older person's ability to respond to heat.
To prevent heat-related illnesses, avoid exerting yourself outdoors during the hottest hours of the day, and seek air conditioning on hot days. Many communities set up local cooling centers. Also, drink eight to nine glasses of water a day.
The most common insect-borne disease in the U.S., Lyme disease, peaks during the summer months when people are exposed to ticks in yards and woods.
The CDC recommends seeing a doctor if you experience fever, headache, body aches, rash, facial paralysis or arthritis after a tick bite. The disease can be treated with antibiotics, but if left untreated, it can lead to joint, heart and nerve damage.
Prevent tick bites by using a repellent that contains 20 percent or more DEET on exposed skin, and one that contains the insecticide permethrin on clothing. Always conduct a full-body tick check after coming in from a wooded area.
Poison ivy, oak and sumac
Did you know that 85% of people are allergic to urushiol (source: American Academy of Dermatology)? Do you even know what urushiol is? Well, it's the oil found in the sap of plants such as poison ivy, poison sumac and poison oak. And when you touch it - look out! It's just not fun.
Symptoms like painful swelling and itching can be treated at home with hydrocortisone cream or calamine lotion and an oral antihistamine. But if the rash appears on your eyelids, lips, face or genitals, the skin around the rash appears infected, or you have a fever, seek medical attention.
Take care of yourselves, your friends and your loved ones. Keep bug spray handy. Learn what poison ivy, oak and sumac look like. Properly dry your ears after swimming. We want you to enjoy your summer months! We want you to be as active as possible!