Health Tips for Surviving Summer Heat

A physician offers health tips for preventing sunburn, dehydration, poison ivy and ticks while working or playing outdoors this summer.

With temperatures on the rise, many are heading outdoors to soak up the sun and enjoy some summer fun.

Desperate for warmth after the long winter, it''s easy to forget basic safety tips when the chance to play outside finally arrives.

Here are a few tips from Dr. Michael Broderdorf, a physician in United Hospital''s Emergency Department, Minneapolis, Minn., to help you enjoy the outdoors and avoid a trip to the emergency room:

Dehydration/heat exhaustion/heat stroke

Prevention: To avoid dehydration, drink plenty of fluids before, during and after exercising or spending time in the hot sun.

Symptoms: Symptoms of dehydration include dizziness, irritability, flushed cheeks, stomach cramps, leg cramps or fainting. If any of these symptoms occur, move to a cool environment, such as an air-conditioned room, and drink cool liquids.

Poison Ivy

Prevention: Learn how to identify the plant so you can avoid it. Wear boots, long pants and a long-sleeved shirt when playing or hiking in areas likely to have poison ivy. As quickly as possible after exposure, thoroughly wash the area with soap and water. Remove and wash clothes exposed to poison ivy.

Identification: Poison ivy is a common shrub that grows in climbing vines all across North America, especially potent in spring and early summer when the plant is filled with resinous sap. The leaves always grow in clusters of three -- one at the end of the stalk and two opposite one another.

Symptoms: Poison ivy rash typically starts several hours after exposure with a reddened, itchy, inflamed area that progresses to blisters which eventually will puss and scab before going away within a week or two. Cortaid or benadryl may help reduce redness and swelling.

Sunburn

Prevention: Apply sunscreen any time you will be outdoors for more than 30 minutes a day. Avoid exposure to the sun between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., when the sun''s rays are most intense. And don''t let overcast days give you a false sense of security, more than 70 percent of the sun''s rays still get through the clouds. Apply sunscreen 30 minutes before going outside, and pay special attention to your nose, ears, cheeks and shoulders. Most products need to be reapplied every 3 to 4 hours, as well as immediately after swimming or profuse sweating. A "waterproof" sunscreen stays on for about 30 minutes in water.

Symptoms: Sunburn is a reddening and inflammation of the skin caused by an over-exposure to the ultraviolet rays of the sun. The symptoms of sunburn typically appear several hours after exposure to the sun and last for days to weeks depending on the severity of the sunburn. The peak reaction of redness, pain and swelling is not seen for 24 hours. Minor sunburn is a first-degree burn, which turns the skin pink or red. Prolonged sun exposure can cause blistering and a second-degree burn. Sunburn never causes a third-degree burn or scarring.

Ticks

Prevention: When you go walking in risk-prone areas, wear long sleeves and tuck your pants into your socks. Apply an insect repellent to shoes and socks. Check yourself and your pet thoroughly for ticks when you get home.

Identification: The deer tick, which transmits Lyme disease, is the size of a pinhead.

Removal: Removing ticks promptly may prevent infection because transmission of Lyme disease requires 18 to 24 hours of feeding. Also the tick is easier to remove before it becomes firmly attached. The simplest and quickest way to remove a wood tick is to pull it off. Use tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible. If the body is removed but the head is left in the skin, use a sterile needle to remove the head. Then wash the wound and your hands with soap and water, and apply antibiotic ointment.

by Virginia Sutcliffe

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