Summer can bite. It can burn or itch. It can make you extremely sick…or worse.
"Summer is a great time to get outside and enjoy all that the natural world has to offer, but we tend to forget some of the season's perils and common sense ways to avoid or treat them," said Dr. Jennifer Caudle, a family physician and faculty member at Rowan University School of Osteopathic Medicine.
What is lurking outside that could be so concerning?
Stinging bugs. "Symptoms of bug stings may range from itching and burning to swelling." Says Dr. Caudle. "Pull a bee, hornet or wasp stinger free by scraping across – not squeezing – the spot with a credit card or other straight object. Then apply ice to reduce any swelling," Dr. Caudle advises. Swelling that continues to spread after 24 hours requires medical attention and any severe reaction such as swelling of the tongue, lips or throat or shortness of breath requires immediate emergency medical attention."
Biting bugs. "Mosquito bites are often harmless, but a few can carry diseases such as Zika and others," Dr. Caudle said. "Wear protective clothing and apply an EPA-registered bug repellent according to label directions to prevent mosquito bites. In addition, take other protective measures to avoid mosquito bites, such as using screens on windows and doors, use air-conditioning when able and sleep under a mosquito net if sleeping outdoors.
"Avoid areas where ticks live, including the brush, trees and dense ground cover of landscaped areas. Use tweezers or your fingers to remove a tick by firmly grabbing it as close to the skin as possible and pulling it straight out. Wash your hands and the site of the tick bite with soap and water. Contact your physician if the tick has been on the skin more than 24 hours, if part of the tick stayed in the skin after removal, or if you notice symptoms such as a "bull's eye" rash, fatigue, headache, stiff neck, fever, and muscle and joint pain."
Itchy plants. "If you come in contact with poison ivy or poison oak, wash the affected area with soap and cool water as soon as possible. Apply calamine lotion or an over‑the‑counter antihistamine cream to soothe any itching. Seek medical attention if a fever develops or the rash spreads to the eyes, mouth or genitals, or if the rash covers a large part of your body
Sunburn. "Tanning is just your body's response to the damage occurring to your skin, damage that could lead to the development of skin cancer and premature signs of aging later in life," Dr. Caudle explained. She advises generous use of sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 that protects against both UVA and UVB sun rays. Avoid the midday sun; wear hats and sunglasses; and reapply sunscreen every two hours or more frequently when swimming or perspiring heavily.
"For sunburn pain, take acetaminophen or ibuprofen and apply aloe lotion to the burned area," she said.
Heat. "Heat exhaustion and heat stroke can occur suddenly and can be life-threatening," Dr. Caudle said. "When working or exercising outside, take frequent breaks and drink water, non-alcoholic or caffeine-free liquids."
Knowing the difference between heat exhaustion and heat stroke could save a life.
"An individual with heat exhaustion may perspire heavily and may feel dizzy, weak or nauseous, but should recover with rest in a shaded or air-conditioned area, with supportive measures such as drinks of cool water and cool and wet cloths applied directly to the skin," Dr. Caudle explained. "Heat stroke may cause similar symptoms, but the person may not sweat and will have mental status changes, such as confusion or unconsciousness. Heat stroke is a life-threatening condition. If you suspect heat stroke, call 911 or seek immediate medical attention."
Water woes: Drowning remains the second leading cause of unintentional injury-related death for children under 14 years old.
"Remember to always keep infants, and small children within arm's reach when in or near the water, no matter how shallow it is," Dr. Caudle said. "Accidental drowning can happen quickly with small children, so be sure you aren't distracted by telephone calls or other tasks when children are in the water."