Symptoms of Summer
Here in the Northeast, we love the sun (when it finally comes out). While soaking up the rays and warm temperatures can feel great, there is a common tendency to overdo it. If you have ever lost track of time and gotten a sunburn or felt dizzy when getting up from your beach chair, you know it's true.
Below are a few quick reminders for enjoying summer without the most common health-related pitfalls.
Pass the water. Dehydration is one of the most common summer health problems, especially among the elderly and athletes. It happens when we don't have enough fluid in our bodies to perform basic functions. While the problem can happen year round, it is more common when the weather is hot and people lose critical ounces to sweat.
The preventive measure is tanking up on plenty of non-alcoholic fluids. (Water is best, but lemonade or ice tea work, too.) If you begin to experience symptoms, like unusual fatigue, muscle cramping, and dizziness, drink up. If symptoms don't improve, take a ride to the Emergency Department, where you may need to get critical fluids intravenously.
Pass the sunscreen. Sunburns are uncomfortable immediately after they happen, but they can also cause life-threatening skin cancer. To avoid short-term pain and long-term consequences, fully cover exposed skin with a broad spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or greater every two hours you spend in the sun. Even if you're using sunscreen, wear protective clothing and stay out of the sun at midday to limit the sun's harmful effects on your skin.
If you get a sunburn, treat it as soon as you notice by getting out of the sun, cooling the skin with a damp towel or moisturizer with aloe vera, and drinking plenty of water. If you feel dizzy, weak, nauseated, chilled or other symptoms, it could be a more serious effect of the sunburn. See a doctor right away.
Pass the water again. If you're following the recommendations listed above, you are more likely to avoid the most serious of summer's illnesses: heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Nonetheless, it is important to recognize the symptoms and know what to do if they occur.
Muscle cramps, heavy sweating, nausea, headache or light-headedness may all indicate a heat illness. Most heat illnesses can be treated with fluids and by resting in a cooler place. If symptoms persist or get worse, or someone you are with seems confused or loses consciousness, dial 9-1-1 and get immediate medical help.
Now that you're prepared, grab that full, large water bottle, SPF 50 sunscreen, protective hat and clothing, and get out there — mostly in the morning and later in the afternoon — for a fun, relaxing time.
Dr. Peter Park is a family medicine physician at SVMC Deerfield Valley Campus. "Health Matters" is a column meant to educate readers about their personal health, public health matters, and public policy as it affects health care.