Heat, Sun, Bugs and More Can Ruin a Relaxing Holiday, Loyola Physician Says
MELROSE PARK, Ill. - Summer is officially here and so is the threat of sunburn, bug bites and allergies. Deepti Shivakumar, MD, family practice at Gottlieb Memorial Hospital, offers some helpful tips for a healthy summer.
Here Comes the Sun
“Sun is a natural source of vitamin D and also a mood enhancer,” Dr. Shivakumar said. “But it can also cause skin cancer at any age.” There are two types of sun rays: UVA and UVB. UVA rays can make you tan, but they can also cause irreversible harm. UVA rays penetrate deep into the skin layers, where blood vessels and nerves lay, and may damage a person's immune system. “UVA damage may make it harder for the body to fight off diseases and can lead to skin cancers, like melanoma, squamous cell and basal cell cancers.” Skin cancers can quickly spread and be deadly. “You can still enjoy the sunshine. However, protecting yourself is of utmost importance,” she said. “Apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen (blocks UVA/UVB) with at least SPF 30. You should be applying a "shot glass" amount from head to toe and reapply after swimming or sweating.” Wearing a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses that offer 100 percent UV protection is also recommended. Also, avoid peak sun time between 10 a.m.-4 p.m. If you must be outdoors during that time, take frequent breaks to cool off.
“Take plenty of water before starting an outdoor activity,” Dr. Shivakumar said. “Heat-related illnesses are not only caused by high temperatures and a loss of fluids, but also by a lack of salt in the body.” Some sports drinks can help replenish the salt in your body lost through sweating. Drink fewer beverages that contain caffeine (such as tea, coffee and soda) or alcohol. “Sipping those exotic alcoholic cocktails on the beach on vacation seems very relaxing but can contribute to dehydration,” she warned. “For every one of these "no-no" drinks, be sure to chase them with at least twice the amount of water.” Drink water or other fluids every 15 to 20 minutes, even if you don't feel thirsty. If you have clear, pale urine, you are probably drinking enough fluids. Dark-colored urine is an indication that you're dehydrated.
You’ve Got to Move It, Move It!
“A lazy vacation might sound like a great idea for fun and relaxation, but there are benefits to adding some activity,” Dr. Shivakumar said. “For those of you sedentary vacationers, consider spending just two to four hours a day doing things like walking the city streets, exploring a nature preserve, going to a zoo, biking along the ocean or taking a leisurely rowboat ride.” These kinds of activities are good for your physical health, mental health, even your spiritual health. They make vacations more memorable and worthwhile.
Be Alert to Creepy Crawlies
“You may encounter various insects and bugs while on vacation as they like to thrive in warm climates,” Dr. Shivakumar said. “Being prepared and protecting yourself could help prevent bites, stings and infections.” Be sure to use insect repellent that contains DEET (30 to 50 percent) or picaridin (up to 15 percent) whenever you are outdoors in areas where disease-carrying insects are active. “Insect repellents that contain DEET work the best,” she said. “Wear permethrin-coated clothing and use bed nets while you sleep if mosquitoes seem to be a problem.” Permethrin is a chemical used to repel insects. If you or a family member start to feel any swelling of the throat, shortness of breath or trouble breathing, seek medical attention immediately as you are likely having an allergic reaction that may be life-threatening.
Not All Water is Clean
“Recreational Water Illness (RWI) is caused by germs spread by swallowing, breathing in mists or aerosols of, or having contact with bacteria-laden water in swimming pools, hot tubs, water parks, water play areas, fountains and other bodies of water, Dr. Shivakumar said. “They can cause a variety of infections, including gastrointestinal, skin, ear, respiratory, eye, neurologic and wound infections.” The most commonly reported RWI is diarrhea. It is important to note that chlorine does not kill all germs immediately. Once these germs get in the pool, it can take anywhere from minutes to days for chlorine to kill them. Swallowing just a little water that contains these germs can make you sick. To avoid RWIs, take your children on frequent bathroom breaks and change diapers in designated spots in restrooms and not near the pool or shoreline. Germs can spread to surfaces and objects in and around the water. Avoid swimming in the ocean for at least 24 hours after a heavy rain. Storm-water runoff from the streets and drainage areas may wash pollution into the water. Wash off, preferably with soap and water, before entering pool areas.