Sunburn and hay fever are common summer health problems, but there are some you may not have heard of. GP Dr. Deyo Famuboni shares some summer health issues to watch out for and how to avoid them
Summer days mean spending more time outdoors. Although it’s nice, it can be unsafe, here’s what to keep in mind…
#1 Eye Injuries
We often take our eyes for granted, and while we remember to use sunscreen, we often forget to protect our eyes.
The sun’s rays can cause various eye problems, even on a cloudy day. From treatable conditions like inflammation of the cornea (photokeratitis) or overgrowth of the conjunctiva (pterygium), to long-term damage with cataracts and macular degeneration, these eye conditions are associated with eye exposure to sunlight.
Sunglasses will block UV rays, if you choose carefully
Symptoms include pain, noticing a growth in your eye, and a decrease in your vision, respectively. To prevent them, it is important to protect the eyes with sunglasses that filter UV rays. Sunglasses will block UV rays, if you choose carefully.
Light is measured in nanometers, and UV rays measure from 320 to 390 nanometers. If sunglasses carry a CE mark (a European standard for UV protection), that means they must not allow more than 5 percent of UV rays below 380 nanometers to pass through.
The other thing you might see on your glasses is a UV 400 sign, which simply means that the glasses must not allow UV rays below 400 nanometers to enter. Wearing a wide-brimmed hat also helps.
READ MORE: 12 surprising facts about the sun and skin
#2 Food poisoning
Summer means barbecues and salads. Although they can be healthy, the risk of food poisoning is also increased if proper food handling rules are not followed.
Symptoms generally begin one to three days after exposure and often range from mild, with episodes of diarrhea or vomiting, to severe, with associated fever, dizziness, decreased urination, dehydration, persistent abdominal pain, and blood and mucus in the stool.
Clean, Cook Thoroughly, Cool Properly and Avoid Cross Contamination
Mild food poisoning tends to be self-limiting, and staying hydrated with about 200ml (a small glass) of fluids for each episode is all that is needed.
If you have associated symptoms or concerns, it is best to seek medical advice. According to the Food Standards Agency, adhering to the ‘4 C’s’ helps prevent food poisoning: cleanliness, cooking well, cooling properly and avoiding cross contamination.
#3 Swimmer’s Ear
Also known as otitis externa, swimmer’s ear is an inflammation of the skin in the ear canal. Frequent swimming is a risk factor because water enters the ear, irritating and inflaming the skin.
This provides the right environment for microorganisms to grow and cause an infection. The ear may itch or feel uncomfortable and may discharge. Hearing can also get boring. Topical drugstore ear drops often solve this.
The best way to prevent swimmer’s ear is to keep your ears dry, by wearing a tight-fitting swimming cap or silicone-based earplugs, if they don’t irritate the ear canals. Avoid irritating the ears by using cotton swabs, fingers, or towels.
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#4 hay fever
Increasingly common, hay fever affects around one in four people in the UK. A person is more at risk if they have other allergies, such as asthma or eczema.
Hay fever is due to a reaction to plant pollen, which causes inflammation and the typical symptoms of itching and tearing in the throat, nose and eyes; sneezing; cough; headaches and tiredness. Some people are affected in early spring and others in late summer due to the different pollens released.
Some people are affected in early spring and others in late summer due to the different pollens released.
Reducing exposure to pollen can help prevent symptoms. This includes avoiding being outdoors during peak pollen count hours, protecting your eyes when outdoors, using protective balms around your nostrils, showering and changing once inside, and keeping doors and windows closed.
Treatments that help include antihistamines and nasal sprays that can be obtained without a prescription. To prevent symptoms, it is often worth taking medication a couple of weeks before the season begins.
If your symptoms are severe or you have other allergies, especially asthma, it would be beneficial to see your doctor, as other treatments, such as immunotherapy, may help.
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This can happen with just a few hours of sun exposure, including tanning beds and sunlamps.
Hot skin that feels painful to the touch is often the first sign of a sunburn. Blisters may also appear, and after a few days the skin may begin to peel.
In the extreme, you may have a fever, chills, headaches, fatigue, nausea, or a rash. In the long term, sunburn can cause chronic skin damage with wrinkles, sun spots, and skin cancer.
Sun protection, even on a cloudy day, is the best way to prevent this. We all need vitamin D and although there are dietary sources, the sun is an important source.
Anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen can help with pain.
There are different opinions among dermatologists and scientists about the risk of sun exposure and obtaining vitamin D. The incidence of skin cancer is increasing, so sun protection is vital.
Also, even with sunscreens, some rays reach the skin and this, combined with vitamin D from the diet, may be adequate. If you do get a sunburn, staying hydrated and cooling your skin with showers, cold compresses, and topical gels like aloe vera and moisturizers can help.
Anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen can help with pain. Seek medical attention if there is no improvement in a couple of days or if there is fever, headache, dizziness, nausea, confusion, signs of infection, or blisters involving a large part of the body.
READ MORE: How to detoxify your body this summer: an expert guide
#6 Lyme disease
As the good weather arrives, we spend more time in the field. This has numerous health benefits, but insect bites, particularly tick bites, can be cause for concern.
Lyme disease, or tick-bite fever, can occur and cause both short-term and long-term effects. Most people do not remember being bitten, but do notice a bite with a circular red rash around it. This can happen anywhere from three days to about a month after the bit occurs.
Long-term chronic Lyme disease can manifest as mental or cognitive problems and arthritis.
There may be associated flu symptoms. Some people can clear this up without treatment; however, it can progress to joint pain, weakness, fatigue, heart and neurological problems if not treated with antibiotics. In the long term, chronic Lyme disease can manifest as mental or cognitive problems and arthritis.
Therefore, treatment is important, in case you are bitten by a tick. Prevention is being aware of infested areas, using insect repellent, wearing long sleeves, tucking pants into socks and closed-toe shoes is key.
Checking the skin every day for tick bites and removing them as soon as possible also helps. If found, use tweezers, forceps, or a tick removal device to grasp the head and mouth as close to the skin as possible and slowly pull upward, away from the skin without crushing the tick.
READ MORE: 6 ways to hydrate on the go during a heat wave
#7 Heat exhaustion
When we sweat excessively, we lose salt and water and can easily become dehydrated in summer. Body temperature also rises, which can lead to heat exhaustion. Associated nausea, headaches, fainting, and dizziness may occur.
Moving to a cool place and drinking plenty of fluids usually leads to recovery within 30 minutes. If left untreated, this can lead to heat stroke, when the body temperature exceeds 40 degrees Celsius.
Confusion, vomiting, rapid breathing, and loss of consciousness may occur. Heat stroke is a medical emergency and you should seek immediate medical help.
#8 Skin rashes
From prickly heat rash due to clogged sweat glands to allergic skin reactions from insect bites or exposure to plant sap or oak processionary moths, different skin rashes can occur in the summer.
Keeping your skin cool and exfoliating regularly to minimize dead cell buildup can help prevent miliaria (prickly heat rash). Allergic rashes tend to be self-limiting, and oral antihistamines and topical creams can help with itchy and inflamed symptoms.
different skin rashes can occur in the summer
The eruption of oak processionary moths (which can occur up to 20 meters from affected oak trees) in particular can last for a few weeks. There may be associated sore throat, eye and respiratory problems, a condition called lepidopterism.
If this occurs, it is advisable to seek medical help. If you have a history of severe allergic reactions, always remember to have your adrenaline pen with you.
Deyo Famuboni It’s a London GP.
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