Last year, most of us spent our summer indoors. This year, we’re back outside, enjoying bicycling, hiking, fishing, camping, trips down the shore and all the things that makes summer so memorable. Keeping the fun rolling all season long for you and your family means taking some simple steps to protect your health and well-being.
“Heat related illnesses and tick-borne illnesses can take us by surprise and cause serious health problems,” says family medicine physician Mithun Daniel, DO, with Grand View Health Primary Care Quakertown. “But the good news is that you can prevent them.”
Follow these three essential tips to keep you healthy this summer.
1. Stay Hydrated
If you’re gardening, walking, running or doing anything in the hot summer sun, your body needs more water than normal—sometimes as much as twice the usual amount.
What to drink: Water or low-sugar sports drinks that include electrolytes to keep you hydrated.
What to avoid: Soda, sweet tea, bubble tea and other sugary drinks. “When you ingest too much sugar, it actually dehydrates you,” says Dr. Daniel. Also avoid alcohol.
How to know if you’re dehydrated: If you experience a dry mouth, lips or eyes, a headache, mild dizziness, lightheadedness or fatigue, it’s a good sign you need to stop and take a drink.
How much water do I need to drink each day? It varies based on your height, weight, age and gender. Use this hydration calculator as a guideline.
2. Check for Ticks
According to USA Today, Pennsylvania has reported the most cases of Lyme disease from ticks nationwide every year since 2011.
Untreated tick-borne cases of Lyme can cause a range of symptoms. Fevers, chills, headache, fatigue, muscle and joint aches may happen in the first three to 30 days after a bite. Long-term symptoms can include severe headaches, facial palsy, heart palpitations, joint and neck swelling and stiffness, shortness of breath, nerve pain and shooting pain.
Where ticks live: They’re found in wooded and grassy areas, most typically on cooler and moist days.
How to prevent tick bites: Use an insect repellant containing DEET on skin. Permethrin spray on clothing (especially shoes, socks and pants) can also repel ticks. Don’t spray permethrin on your skin. Check clothing, gear and pets for ticks when you head indoors, and shower within two hours of being outside.
How to remove a tick: Use a fine-tipped tweezers and pull upward. Don’t twist or jerk the tick. After removing the tick, clean the bite area with your hands, rubbing alcohol or soap and water. Never crush a tick with your fingers.
What should I do if I get a tick bite: Monitor your symptoms. A skin rash that looks like a bullseye is a potential tell-tale sign. Seek medical attention if you observe any of the symptoms of Lyme disease after getting a tick bite.
3. Know the Signs of Heat-related Illness
Heat-related illnesses come on fast, often when you don’t drink enough water. The three main types to watch for:
Heat cramps – These are painful muscle spasms. If you have a heat cramp, drink water or a sports drink and wait for cramps to go away before continuing physical activity. Seek help if the cramps last longer than an hour, you’re on a low-sodium diet or you have heart problems.
Heat exhaustion – Symptoms include heavy sweating, cold and clammy skin, a fast or weak pulse, nausea, vomiting, muscle cramps, fatigue, dizziness, headaches and fainting. If you feel any of these signs, move to a cool place, loosen your clothes, sip water, and cool off with a bath or with cool, wet cloths. If you vomit, your symptoms worsen or they last more than one hour, seek immediate medical help.
Heat stroke – This is the most serious heat-related illness, and it can cause brain damage if left untreated. Signs include a body temperature of 103 degrees or more; skin that’s hot, dry and red; a strong, fast pulse; headaches; dizziness; nausea; confusion; and fainting. “Heat stroke is a medical emergency,” Dr. Daniel says. “Call 911 right away.”