9 Tips to Avoid Common Summertime Illnesses and Injuries
Incidents of illnesses and injuries can spike during summer months, with insect stings, heatstroke, food poisoning and sunburn topping the list. Emergency departments see a 14% increase between Memorial Day and Labor Day, according to the CDC. Many of the conditions that send people to the hospital are preventable, making this the ideal time to review simple steps to enjoy a safe and healthy summer.
We’ve collected the most common illnesses and injuries our patients face each summer, as well as important information for each: how to prevent these illnesses and injuries from occurring and what you need to do in case one does happen.
- Bug bites and stings
- Heatstroke or sunstroke
- Food poisoning
- Swimmer’s ear
- Summer cold or flu
- Lyme disease
- Poison ivy or rashes
- Sports injuries
- Make an appointment with a provider
How to avoid bug bites and stings
It’s hard to enjoy a summer day while scratching a mosquito bite or icing a bee sting. Plus, insects can infect people with conditions that can cause much bigger problems, such as Lyme disease.
Remember to apply insect repellent on exposed skin before going out (no need to cover skin covered by clothing, although you may want to spray your clothing with tick repellent). Wearing a hat, long-sleeved shirts and pants in areas that are prone to ticks will also protect you.
If you get a bite or sting, begin by treating it at home by applying hydrocortisone cream or taking an antihistamine. If swelling doesn’t subside in a few days or if it looks infected, see a doctor. If the bite causes redness to spread quickly or causes severe pain, visit urgent care. AnMed Health’s urgent care clinics, called CareConnect, are located in Anderson and Clemson.
Tip: If you’re applying both sunscreen and insect repellent (which we highly recommend), apply sunscreen first. After it dries, apply insect repellent. While you’ll need to re-apply sunscreen several times a day, insect repellant will last longer and not require as many applications.
How to avoid heatstroke or sunstroke
Heatstroke and sunstroke are two words that describe the same condition. It can cause your body temperature to shoot up past 104 degrees, your skin to become flushed and your heart to race. You may even become nauseous or faint. If you experience these more severe conditions due to heat, seek emergency care to prevent complications.
To prevent heatstroke, stay as cool as you can, as long as you can. That means avoiding the hottest times of the day when possible, and wearing loose, light clothing when you do go outside. Drink lots of water to remain hydrated. If you take medication, check with your doctor to learn if your medication may make you more susceptible to heat stroke.
How to avoid food poisoning
Food poisoning becomes a bigger risk during the summer, when foods can be left in hot temperatures for too long. It can cause vomiting, cramping, fever and diarrhea. When food poisoning causes bloody diarrhea, diarrhea that lasts more than three days or dehydration, it’s time to visit your doctor or visit an urgent care clinic, such as CareConnect.
If you’re grilling seafood or meat, keep it refrigerated or chilled until you’re ready to throw it on the grill – and make sure you cook it fully on the grill. (rare hamburgers are not a safe option.) Be sure to wash any plates that held raw meat or seafood, and don’t let other foods touch raw foods. And, of course, wash all veggies—as well as your hands—thoroughly.
How to avoid sunburn
To avoid sunburn, try to minimize the time spent outside in unshaded areas during the hottest part of the afternoon. Sunglasses, a hat and sunblock will protect you from the sun’s heat.
A minor sunburn results in redness and soreness, which can be treated with over-the-counter pain relievers, hydrocortisone cream, moisturizer or a cool, damp cloth. A severe sunburn, however, can cause fever, nausea, low blood pressure or fainting. If you get a severe sunburn, contact your doctor, AnMed Health E-Visits or CareConnect for treatment.
How to avoid swimmer’s ear
When water gets in your ear after swimming – and it doesn’t get back out – it can cause an infection. With a mild case of swimmer’s ear, you might feel itching inside your ear or notice redness in it. If so, contact your doctor or E-Visits for treatment to prevent the infection from becoming worse. More severe conditions create a total blockage in your ear and cause a lot of pain. In those cases, contact your doctor right away or visit urgent care.
To prevent swimmer’s ear, dry your ears after swimming and don’t put any objects (even cotton swabs) inside your ears.
How to avoid the summer cold or flu
Flu season arrives during fall and winter months. If you’re experiencing flu-like symptoms during the summer, it is likely due to another culprit, such as a cold, pneumonia, bronchitis or even Lyme disease. Go to a doctor to learn your diagnosis and find your best treatment options.
Cold season, however, lasts all year. A summer cold can leave you feeling sneezy, congested, sniffling and coughing. A fever is also possible. To prevent a summer cold, good hygiene is key. Wash your hands regularly, cover your sneezes and coughs with your elbow, eat a nutritious diet, and try to avoid others who are sick. If your fever, cough or congestion don’t begin to subside with rest and at-home cold remedies, it’s time to see a doctor.
How to avoid Lyme disease
A bite from an infected deer tick is enough to cause Lyme disease, which – if left untreated – can cause significant medical problems, such as neurological issues, joint pain and heart problems. If you’ve been bitten by a tick and get a rash, fever, chills or body aches within a month of the bite, visit a doctor or clinic to get checked for Lyme disease. Getting treated early can help you prevent or lessen bigger issues later.
To prevent Lyme disease, protect your skin with long sleeves, pants and a hat when walking in wooded, grassy areas. Check your skin for ticks (as well as the skin of children or pets), and remove ticks right away in the right way.
How to prevent poison ivy or rashes
Poison ivy is everywhere. It grows throughout North America, producing an oil on its leaves that can cause a rash within a day to three days to someone who touches it. A poison ivy rash won’t spread, but it’ll cause red, raised blisters that appear in patches.
The first step to prevent poison ivy is to learn what it looks like. The tricky part is that it can look differently during each season, so learn how to identify poison ivy all year long. When you work outside, consider wearing gloves and protective clothing to keep your skin safe. If you brush against poison ivy, wash your skin with soap immediately. If a rash develops, don’t scratch it – instead, apply calamine lotion or hydrocortisone to soothe the skin. You’ll need to make an appointment with a doctor if the rash covers a large part of your body or if it’s near your eyes.
How to prevent sports injuries
Kids are off to summer camp. Adults are trying new fitness activities. No wonder why summer sees so many sports injuries, from sprains to fractures.
To avoid injuries, wear the right protective gear, which may be a helmet, elbow/knee pads, mouth guard or eye protection. Remember to warm up before going all-in, with enough stretching and light cardio to prepare your body for play. Drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration and cramping. And, of course, give yourself time to heal if you’re injured. You might nurse an injury with lighter cardio, lower-impact cardio (such as swimming) or a temporary break from exercise altogether.
If you or your child experiences a possible concussion following an impact on the field – which can cause drowsiness, headache, dizziness, nausea or a dazed appearance – seek medical attention immediately.
Make an appointment with a provider
If you’re unsure whether to see a doctor for a condition, err on the side of caution and make an appointment. At AnMed Health, established patients can even make appointments online. Reserving a spot at CareConnect (urgent care) or having an E-Visit are also online options. Make an appointment today to ensure a healthy, happy summer.