Summer's long days and warm nights offer those in the Northeast the chance to enjoy the outdoors from dawn until after dusk. However, from bug bites and rashes to dehydration and sunburn, warm weather is also full of potential health hazards.
In order to treat these problems if they occur, Dr. Carin Shapiro, a family physician at Highland Medical, P.C. Orangetown Family Practice, recommended having the following products on hand and explained their benefits in everyday life:
Aloe: For sunburn, products containing aloe can provide relief.
Calamine lotion: For bug bites, poison ivy or sunburn, calamine lotion can soothe the skin and reduce itchiness.
Cool compresses: A washcloth soaked in cool water can relieve a sunburn, poison ivy or heat rash.
Hydrocortisone cream: For bug bites and skin rashes caused by poison ivy or heat, try hydrocortisone cream or other topical steroid creams.
Insect repellent: To protect yourself against bites from mosquitoes and ticks, use insect repellent containing DEET, picaridin, IR3535, oil of lemon eucalyptus, para-menthane-diol or 2-undecanone.
Oral antihistamines: For bug bites, heat rash or poison ivy, oral antihistamines such as Benadryl, Claritin or Allegra can help reduce itchiness.
Over-the-counter pain relievers: Ibuprofen or acetaminophen can help reduce the pain from sunburn or discomfort from heat rash.
Sports drinks: The best way to deal with dehydration is to prevent it in the first place. That means drinking plenty of fluids—especially water--throughout the day if you’re spending a lot of time outside and it's hot. If you begin to feel dehydrated, beverages that contain sugar and electrolytes, such as Gatorade, can also help.
Sunscreen: Prevent sunburn by using sunscreen with at least SPF 30, Shapiro advises. “Apply it 15 minutes before you go out, and be sure to reapply it every two hours—even if you’re using waterproof sunscreen,” she said. If you or your child are prone to rashes, look for products designed for sensitive skin.
Topical antihistamine: Benadryl in spray or gel form can relieve itchiness from poison ivy or heat rash.
When to Seek Medical Help
While many of the most common summertime ailments can be treated at home, there are several cases where you should head to a primary care physician’s office, urgent care or the emergency room, said Shapiro.
For instance, if a rash is getting larger, or you notice swelling or redness in other areas of your body, it's important to go to urgent care. “If your red rash is getting redder or hotter, that can be a sign of an infection after a bug sting or bite, and you should have it looked at by a medical professional,” said Shapiro.
If a bulls-eye rash becomes visible, it may be a sign you’ve recently been bitten by a tick carrying Lyme disease. Don’t try and treat it yourself, she cautioned. Instead, seek medical care to get evaluated.
Dehydration can also quickly become dangerous. If your heart rate elevates or you feel dizzy being in the heat, drink one to two sports drinks and water, and consider seeking medical attention.
For more information on ways to keep your body safe this summer, visit Highland Medical's website.