11 Summer Health Scares and How You Can Avoid Them
The carefree attitude that many of us have during summer can leave us vulnerable to seasonal threats.
Summer's here, which means that everyone's shedding their long sleeves and their worries. But the carefree attitude many of us have during summer can leave us vulnerable to seasonal threats. You’ve heard of heat stroke and sun burn, and you know all about poison ivy, but what about those lesser-known dangers your mom never warned you about? Read on for info about a few threats that could end up benching you during the best time of the year, and learn how to avoid them.
If you’re mixing cocktails in your backyard or simply adding a squeeze of lemon to your water, you should probably wash your hands immediately thereafter. Just a little citrus on your skin can produce a chemical burn called phytophotodermatitis when exposed to sunlight. Also known as “lime disease,” phytophotodermatitis affects people who are sensitive to or allergic to chemicals — called furocoumarins — in certain plants and fruits, including a bunch of fresh, summery foods like celery, carrots, figs and citrus fruts.
So what happens? The reaction can look a lot like sunburn, where red, itchy patches that sometimes blister develop on your skin. Phytophotodermatitis goes away on its own, but you can cover the affected area with a cool, wet cloth to help relieve the pain.
2. Dry Drowning
Earlier this year, 4-year-old Frankie Delgado III went swimming with his family in knee-deep water. A week later, the Washington Post reports, Delgado was rushed to the hospital, where doctors were unable to save his life. His family was later shocked to learn that Delgado died of dry drowning.
Dry drowning, or secondary drowning, occurs when someone inhales water but is not affected until hours or days after. Although dry drowning can happen to adults, it's more common in children because they have smaller bodies. Dr. Thomas Waters of the Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Emergency Medicine tells CBS News that the inhaled water can cause the vocal chords to spasm, leading to inflammation, swelling and fluid in the lungs. If you or your child exhibit symptoms of dry drowning — like trouble breathing, coughing, sleepiness or a drop in energy, irritability, chest pain and vomiting — go to the hospital right away.
Read more: 8 "Bad" Habits Science Says Are Actually OK
3. Sunburn From Perfumes
What’s that smell? It's that extra bit of sweat you get when it's hot out. But before you go to town with a bottle of body spray, check the ingredients. Some perfumes and colognes contain substances that can actually heighten your photosensitivity. In other words, they make your skin more sensitive to sunlight 2.
The list of ingredients in question is probably longer than your attention span, but a few worth mentioning are benzophenones (found in sunscreens, ironically), retinoids (used to treat acne) and fragrances like musk, coumarins, bergamot, sandalwood and lavender.
4. Sunburn From Essential Oils
Perfumes aren’t the only topical summer danger. Essential oils can act like cooking oils when applied to your skin and exposed to sunlight. Dermatologist Doris Day, M.D., tells Self that these oils make your skin better able to absorb UV rays, priming it for a burn.
Our advice? Skip the perfume and essential oils if you’re planning to spend a day out in the sun and go all natural.
5. Sunburn From Medication
Some internal medications can also make your skin more sensitive to sunlight. No joke. Check here for a full list of these agents, which include several antibiotics, certain contraceptives and some over-the-counter anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen and naproxen.
To prevent photosensitivity from happening, try to avoid taking the substance that’s causing it. If the culprit is a medication prescribed to you by a doctor, ask your doctor for an alternative. But if you’re absolutely stuck with a drug that makes your skin sensitive to sunlight, the New York Times suggests using sunscreens that contain good UV blockers like titanium dioxide and zinc oxide. For more tips, check out our list of the 32 safest sunscreens to use and four to avoid.
6. Food-borne Illnesses
Picnics and barbecues with friends and family are mainstays of summer. Unfortunately, food-borne illnesses peak during the summer because bacteria thrives in warmer temperatures and handling food outdoors can easily lead to bacteria contamination.
But none of this means you have to sacrifice the adventurous spirit of summer for glamping and staying indoors. The United States Department of Agriculture provides a few guidelines on how to cook meat, store perishable foods and what to do with leftovers.
Read more: 10 Common Food Traps (and How to Avoid Them)
7. Lyme Disease
You may think you won’t get Lyme disease because you’re too old for summer camp, but cases in the United States have actually tripled over the past two decades; and, the ticks that carry it are now found in more than half of all American counties, Science magazine reports. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), you might have Lyme if you’re experiencing “fever, headache, fatigue and a characteristic skin rash called erythema migraines.” Although it can be treated with antibiotics, untreated cases can spread to the joints, heart and nervous system.
You can prevent Lyme disease by avoiding wooded and brushy areas and sticking to trails. Also, use bug repellent with 20 percent (or more) DEET, picaridin or IR3535. Try to cover up with long-sleeve clothing, or purchase clothing treated with permethrin.
Although there have only been 75 reported cases in the past decade, environmental risks for Powassan, another tick-borne disease, appear to be on the rise. What’s so scary about Powassan, or POW? Well, 10 percent of people who contract POW die from it, and in other cases it can lead to permanent brain damage. Symptoms of this virus include fever, headache, vomiting, weakness, confusion, seizures and memory loss.
Two consecutive years of mild winters across the northeastern U.S. have fostered a healthy environment for a boom in the tick population, Wired reports. Unfortunately, there’s not much you can do to prevent this nasty virus aside from taking the same precautions you would to prevent Lyme disease — avoid brushy areas, use bug repellent and cover up whenever you’re outside.
9. Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease
Hand, food and mouth disease, a flu-like illness, isn’t typically dangerous, but it has some pretty nasty symptoms (beyond your regular fever, sore throat, nausea, diarrhea, etc.): It can cause little red spots to appear in the mouth, on the palms of the hands and on the soles of the feet that later develop into painful blisters. These blisters can also appear on the knees, elbows, buttocks or genital area. And though the disease usually targets children younger than 5 years old, it can also make its way across college campuses.
The important thing to note, the CDC warns, is that in extreme cases, the sores can make swallowing liquids painful, which means that children can easily become dehydrated. Take acetaminophen or ibuprofen to treat the symptoms and the disease should run its course in about a week.
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Mosquitoes thrive in warm, humid weather, meaning that with summer at its height, people are especially vulnerable to Zika virus. A study found that there’s recently been a significant uptick in U.S. counties where mosquitoes capable of carrying Zika have been found: They’re now in 220 counties in 28 states, the Washington Post reports. Zika is known to cause birth defects, including microcephaly, a condition where a baby's head is much smaller than expected, and Guillain-Barre syndrome, a neurological disorder that affects the nerves that control muscle movement and allow you to feel touch, pain and temperature.
Researchers have yet to create a vaccine for the disease, so your best bet is to be diligent in preventing it. Use Environmental Protection Agency-registered insect repellents whenever you’re outdoors, and consider buying permethrin-treated clothing. Protect your home from mosquitoes by fixing holes in your screens and getting rid of standing water.
11. Jellyfish Stings
Getting stung by a jellyfish can feel a lot like being attacked by a small army of bees. And while that’s the extent of harm in some cases, some stings can do major damage.
When you encounter a jellyfish, stinging cells inside its tentacles (called nematocytes) are injected into your skin. While the internet may tell you to scrape these suckers off, don’t do it. According to a recent study, messing with the tentacles can actually cause more venom to discharge, which can make the sting a lot more painful. Also, despite what you may have heard — don’t pee on it! The salt in your urine could trigger more cells to fire. You’re better off dousing it in vinegar, which inactivates the nematocytes.
What Do YOU Think?
Have you experienced any of these things before? What are some summer threats that are a major concern where you live? Do you think summer is scarier now than it was when you were a child? Share in the comments section!