Tips to enjoy a safe and healthy summer – Reading Eagle

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Summer is a great time to relax and enjoy time with family. However, there are common summer-related illnesses that you should be prepared for and take precautions against.
Ticks are more active during warmer months. Black legged ticks, also known as deer ticks, are the most common carriers of Lyme disease and thrive in tall grass, brush and wooded areas. To avoid being bitten by ticks, cover exposed skin with lightweight and light-colored clothing, use an ETA approved insect repellent and avoid tick-infested habitat such as areas with dense shrubs and tall grass. Once at home, check yourself, children and pets for ticks and take a shower immediately to remove ticks that may be crawling on skin.
Most insect bites, while irritating, are mild, but some stings can cause severe allergic reaction. For mild reactions, remove any stingers and gently wash the area with soap and water. Apply a cloth dampened with cold water and ice to the area of the bite for 10 to 20 minutes. To help with itching or irritation, you may apply calamine lotion or hydrocortisone cream or use an anti-itch medicine or antihistamines such as cetirizine, loratadine and diphenhydramine. If the swelling gets worse or you are showing signs of infection, seek immediate medical care.
Heat stroke is a condition during which a person’s body gets too hot, with body temperature reaching 104 degrees F or higher. Heat stroke is a medical emergency and care should be sought immediately. Symptoms of a heat stroke include confusion, hallucination, trouble walking, passing out or seizures. It can also cause fast heartbeat or fast breathing, skin redness and warmth, vomiting, diarrhea, headaches and muscle cramps.
To prevent heat stroke, be sure to drink enough water, take breaks when exercising or working outside and wear loose, lightweight clothing. Avoid being in a hot car for extended periods of time.  To cool down, move into a shaded area, go into an air-conditioned building or car, take a cold shower or bath, drink water or a sports drink or put a cold pack or cool cloth on your neck, armpits and groin.
Another common summer illness is sunburn. Mild to moderate sunburn usually resolves within a few days. Cold compression, soaks, calamine lotion and aloe-vera-based gels provide some relief of pain and discomfort. For skin pain and inflammation, you may try analgesics such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen.
Do not use topical corticosteroids for treatment of sunburn. For severe sunburn, seek medical care immediately. Ruptured blisters should be gently cleaned with mild soap and water and covered with wet dressing. Severe cases of sunburn can lead to systemic symptoms such as fever, headache, vomiting and dehydration and require fluid replacement and pain medications.
To prevent sunburn, avoid direct sun exposure when possible, wear protective clothing including wide-brimmed hats and liberally apply broad-spectrum sunscreens with SPF 30 or higher. Sunscreen should be applied 15 to 30 minutes before sun exposure and reapplied at least every two hours.
Many people cook and eat outside during summer where temperature-controlled refrigeration is less common. Food-borne illnesses, like food poisoning, increase during summer months because bacteria thrive in warm, moist temperatures. Cooking outside also makes it more difficult to wash hands, which is a vital part of eliminating germs.
To decrease the likelihood of food poisoning, wash hands frequently and clean cooking surfaces often during food prep. Keep foods in coolers until they are ready to be cooked or eaten.
Water safety is paramount because it is the leading cause of injury-related death among children between 1 and 4 years old.  Never leave your child unsupervised near water. Do not allow roughhousing with others or playing breath-holding games, and always stay away from pool drains.
A child can lose consciousness if submerged for two minutes in water. Brain damage can occur within five minutes of water submersion, and each additional minute a child is submerged, the severity of the outcome worsens. Even adults should have a buddy when swimming because anybody can experience cramps, exhaustion or a panic attack that are risks for drowning.
I also encourage every adult to learn CPR for infants, children and adults. It can save lives and reduce injury.
By following these easy, common-sense tips you can stay safe and healthy while enjoying summer!
Dr. Maria Cristina Frank is with Tower Health Medical Group Internal Medicine — Wyomissing 1st Floor.
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