4 Surprising Summer Health Hazards – And How to Avoid Them

Brett A. Wohler, MD
By Brett A. Wohler, MD
June 8, 2018
4 Surprising Summer Health Hazards - And How to Avoid Them

Summer is right around the corner, and for a lot of us that means a vacation is in store. Will you head to the beach? Travel abroad? Pop a tent at a nearby campsite? 

You’re probably not thinking about summer vacation health hazards as you plan, pack or travel. Unfortunately, they happen. As a family physician in Alexandria, Virginia, I see plenty of them. Sometimes they could have been prevented, if my patients only knew what to watch for.

With that in mind, I’ve compiled a short list of summer health safety tips, potential vacation risks, and how to avoid them.

1. Ticks

They’re practically everywhere in the country, not just in remote areas. My family medicine practice is in Fairfax County, just outside Washington, D.C., where there are three species of ticks that can spread diseases to humans (deer ticks, lone star ticks and American dog ticks). In fact, lyme disease from ticks is on the rise across the U.S. Tick bites are easy to prevent if you know what to look out for.

To reduce your risk of tick bites: 

  • Walk in the center of trails and steer clear of bushes and tall grass. Ticks can’t jump, so they sit on the tips of grasses and shrubs waiting for a host to brush past.
  • Use insect repellant with DEET on skin and clothes. DEET is the best tick repellent since it not only protects against potentially harmful ticks, but also against mosquitoes that carry the Zika virus.

2. Heatstroke

You know the importance of wearing sunblock, but sunburn and skin cancer aren’t the only risks of spending time outdoors. Heatstroke can occur when your body overheats to the point of being dangerous. Signs include confusion, nausea, rapid heart rate and more.

These are the two main preventable causes of heat stroke: 

  • Prolonged time in hot, humid weather. Older adults and people with chronic illness are especially at risk. Drink plenty of water and take breaks from the heat.
  • Strenuous activity in hot weather. If you’re not used to exercising outside when it’s hot, summer vacation is not the time to start.

3. Recreational water illness

Once in a while, I’ll get a call from a patient who has a bad case of diarrhea after spending a day at a waterpark or lake. There are many possible causes of contaminated water diseases, including the water itself. Recreational water illness, or RWI, includes a range of illnesses you can get from germs and chemicals in public swimming pools, hot tubs, waterparks, lakes and rivers. 

One way to stay safe is simply to use your good judgment before jumping in: If the water looks dirty or the smell of chlorine is practically choking you, take a pass. You can’t always see or smell the danger, though. If you do get sick, let your doctor know about it. Sometimes RWI doesn’t resolve quickly on its own and needs treatment.  

4. Poison Ivy, Oak and Sumac

If you touch poison ivy, poison oak or poison sumac when you’re gardening, hiking or camping this summer, you’ll probably know it. Oils in these plants cause an itchy rash that starts in one to two days and can last for days or weeks. 

The surest way to stay safe and prevent coming into contact with poison oak is to cover bare skin when you’ll be in contact with foliage. You may also want to try an over-the-counter barrier product – such as Ivy-X – that helps create a protective barrier between your skin and the oil from the plant. 

Too late to prevent the rash? The recommended poison ivy rash treatment is taking an antihistamine pill to reduce itching, however it is best to avoid antihistamine creams, which can make the rash worse. Oatmeal baths, cool compresses and short, lukewarm baths/showers can also give you relief. 

This blog reflects the medical opinion of Dr. Bret Wohler, an MDVIP-affiliated, board-certified family practice physician, and not necessarily the opinion of all physicians in the MDVIP national network.




Similar Posts
Up Your Game: Take More Precautions Against Ticks This Summer / Janet Tiberian, MA, MPH, CHES / June 22, 2017
Zika Virus - How to Stay Safe This Summer / Janet Tiberian, MA, MPH, CHES / June 17, 2016
Can Summer Trigger Migraines? / Janet Tiberian, MA, MPH, CHES / August 14, 2016

About the Physician
Brett A. Wohler, MD

I am a primary care physician practicing in a personalized healthcare model with an emphasis on prevention, wellness and early detection. As a family physician, I see children and make rounds with my patients admitted to INOVA Alexandria Hospital. My practice is located in Alexandria, Virginia and serves the DC Metro area, including Springfield, Fairfax, Alexandria and Arlington, as well as surrounding areas in Maryland. 

My practice philosophy is focused on getting to know and understand my patients as best I can to help guide them through the maze of our current healthcare system. This commitment involves partnering with patients and continually discussing their health concerns and lifestyle choices. As a private doctor, I like to emphasize the power of the individual and to help him or her using natural treatments (more exercise, stress management, healthier diet and weight management) rather than pharmaceuticals when possible. Similar to concierge medicine practices, I also offer conveniences like same- or next-day appointments that start on time. 

I have been named to the list of Best Doctors in America® for 18 consecutive years.

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