Staying Healthy During the Summer Season

Tess Thompson

Summer is already upon us! For many people, summer means fun in the sun. The kids are out of school, adults are going on vacations and it's time for outdoor activities like riding bikes and hosting barbecues and much more. Staying healthy during the summer requires more than just eating the right foods.

Summer provides an excellent opportunity for everyone to get outside, increase their activity, and avoid a year-round sedentary lifestyle. But summer also holds risks such as heat, skin cancer and even tetanus. No matter what summertime activity you choose to participate in - fun and games with family or friends at the park, a cool and refreshing swim, or a backyard barbecue - the hot and humid days can take a toll on you and your family. It may be tempting to let your guard down on vacation, but you can have fun and stay healthy away from home and take your healthy lifestyle with you. As your family plans quality time together, incorporate your regular healthy habits into your summer - or take advantage of the time to start new ones.

"For some of us, the beginning of the summer is a better time for introspection and thoughtful change. We are motivated to plan something new when children get a break from school, many families take vacations and we all seem to enjoy life at the more leisurely pace that summer brings," Dr. Joan Lang, chairwoman of the department of psychiatry at Saint Louis University School of Medicine noted.

Take advantage of the summer weather to enjoy walks or light exercise, such as gardening. It may improve your balance, build muscle mass, lower blood pressure, improve cardiac health, and provide other health benefits both emotional and physical. Whether it's gardening or exercising, ease into it and gradually build your endurance. Watch the heat and your fluid intake, and you can enjoy summer in good health. There is much that you can do that will help you and your family stay cool and healthy during the upcoming hot winter months. Now is the time to get ready for a healthy and safe summer that can help reduce the risks of developing chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer and diabetes and also allergies, eye injuries, immune system function and more and this summer is a great opportunity for everyone to think about simple ways to start being more active, eating better and creating a healthy lifestyle that can last a lifetime.

Summer Infections and Conditions

There are many infections that are more common in the summer and can cause symptoms. Among the viruses that can commonly cause infections in the summer include enteroviruses, parainfluenza, and poliovirus. It is also important to keep in mind that different parts of the world have different seasonal patterns for when infections occur. So, if you are from the United States and you visit another area of the world on your summer vacation,' then you may be exposed to people that are in the peak of their flu season. Or if you are around a lot of tourists, they can bring the infection to you.

Mosquito borne infections, commonly caused by the arboviruses, such as West Nile Encephalitis, St. Louis Encephalitis and dengue fever, are also more common in the summer, specifically the late summer, and early autumn.

Tick borne illnesses, although not caused by viruses, are also more common during the summer months, including Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, and Ehrlichiosis.

Another common summertime virus is the parainfluenza virus 3. This virus can cause croup, bronchiolitis, pneumonia or just a cold.

Another important cause of infections and illness in the summer months is food poisoning or food borne illnesses. Warmer weather, which help bacteria to multiply faster, and the increased number of cookouts and picnics in the summer, help to contribute to a rise in food poisoning during this time of year.

A variety of information regarding health issues that typically arise in spring and summer, including a natural approach for alleviating allergies; recognizing and treating heat exhaustion and heat stroke; a spring-and-fall regimen of body cleansing; revving up your immune system and using vitamin E to nourish cells and reduce the signs of aging.

A Natural Approach For Allergy Sufferers

In today's busy and unfortunately progressively polluted world, many people are seeking ways to find more answers which might possibly provide an improved level of health for themselves and their families.

One major health issue surrounds the topic of Allergies. Probably the only good thing about an allergy is that it is often possible to help yourself by using just a bit of common sense. The key is to learn about cause and effect relationships such as what was eaten, touched or possibly even detected by smell in the days or hours before the symptoms erupted.

Of importance is to recognize allergies as early as possible. An immense amount of illness and heartache, often starting in infancy and then snowballing right through adulthood, could be prevented if this was done ahead of time. For most individuals, allergies are a seasonal or situational problem causing unbearable symptoms. The pollens of spring or your cat or dog may be the reason for your itchy eyes, runny nose, sneezing, wheezing etc. Yet for some people allergy symptoms never seem to disappear. They are a constant problem. Common environmental exposures and foods trigger these allergies (sensitivities) and therefore promote respiratory attacks such as asthma or emphysema. Allergies can become much more complicated than this.

Some recent studies indicate that certain foods can cause epilepsy in some individuals who also have other medical complaints and who also have typical or unusual forms of allergies. Similar studies also indicate that arthritis and migraine headaches can be caused by certain other foods for those particular individuals.

Once you suspect that an allergy or sensitivity to something might be the cause of your problem, then it is sometimes remarkably easy to determine why you are ill. One of the major areas of detection lies within our immune system. In essence, our immune system is causing the allergic symptoms in its bid to rid the body of what it sees as invaders. From one point of view, we can view an allergy as an inability to overcome something foreign. The allergen takes over and cannot be subdued and overcome and then the body then makes every attempt to eliminate the unconquered allergen.

Summer Eye Injuries

An estimated 2.4 million people in the United States suffer eye injuries every year, and most of them occur during summer. The result is that nearly 1 million Americans have permanent vision impairment due to injury, and more than 75 percent of these people become blind in one eye. As you set about your summer activities, doctors urge you to take precautions to make sure your eyes are safe. The most insidious eye injuries can come from the summer's main attraction -- the sun.

“Ultraviolet rays can cause sunburned corneas, cancer of the eyelid, and increased risk of eye diseases such as cataracts and macular degeneration. But those diseases won't develop until long after you've sustained an eye injury that you might not even know you have”, said New Orleans ophthalmologist Dr. Monica L. Monica.

Travel Health

Preparing for a trip and vacations takes planning and time. Proper planning is the best way to stay healthy during your trip. According to Healthwise Incorporated, a nonprofit organization, you should see a doctor at least 6 weeks before you go so that you'll have time for immunizations and other health precautions you may need to take in advance. There are several factors to consider in preparing for a trip.

Your individual health needs such as if you have any chronic diseases or other health concerns, such as allergies, birth control or other medications, see your doctor. You may need to adjust your itinerary to accommodate your health needs. For example, if you have heart failure or a history of blood clots, you may need to take shorter flights with more stops to avoid long periods of sitting. If you have asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), or other lung diseases, you may need to avoid stays in polluted cities or at high altitudes.

Evaluate whether you will be physically able to meet the rigors of your particular trip. Most travel typically demands more physical effort than is required at home. Boost your fitness by starting an exercise program, such as walking, in advance.

If you have health problems, carry a letter from you doctor describing your conditions, a list of your routine medications including their generic names, and written prescriptions for refills if you will be gone long. If you have diabetes, you can take precautions to prevent problems while traveling. Travel can make it hard to keep your blood sugar within a safe range because of changes in time zones, meal schedules, and types of foods available. Check your blood sugar level more often during your time away from home. When traveling, take extra diabetes pills and insulin supplies. You may not find your regular supplies wherever you travel. Double your normal amount of needed supplies for short trips. For long trips, have enough extra supplies to last for 2 weeks more than the length of your trip. To keep your blood sugar level, try to eat and take your medicine as close to your usual schedule as you can.

Leave your medications in the original containers, and pack them in a waterproof container in your carryon luggage. Take extra amounts of your routine medications packed in checked luggage in case of theft or loss.

Many doctors recommend that you take a first aid kit with items such as pain relievers, sunscreen, antifungal and antibacterial ointments, and anti-diarrhea medications, especially if you will be traveling to areas where modern medical care is not readily available.

Preparing for health risks while traveling is especially important if you are visiting other countries and areas, such as those in parts of Africa and Asia and many parts of South and Central America, where expert medical care may not be readily available.

Before you go, you should be aware of any needed immunizations or medications, disease outbreaks, food and water precautions, and any other preventive measures to take. Check your local or state health clinic at least 6 weeks before traveling so that you'll have time for immunizations and other health precautions that may need to done in advance.

Make sure all of your routine immunizations are up to date for you and your family. These immunizations can protect you from diseases such as polio, diphtheria, measles, and rubella that have been virtually wiped out in developed nations but are still prevalent in some developing countries. If you will be traveling to a country where these infections are still common, check your immunity status. Some adults have not received all of these vaccines (especially measles, mumps, and rubella) and may be susceptible unless they have had the disease. Tetanus immunization should be updated before traveling if you haven't received one in the last 10 years.

Hepatitis A is the most widely reported disease in return travelers that can be prevented by a vaccine. You can help protect yourself from hepatitis A while traveling by taking basic precautions such as boiling your drinking water, making sure food is well-cooked, and eating only raw fruits and vegetables that you have washed and peeled.

Malaria-risk areas of the world include large areas of Central and South America, Hispaniola (Haiti and the Dominican Republic), Africa, the Indian subcontinent, Southeast Asia, the Middle East, and many South Pacific islands. You may need to take one of several different preventive medications depending upon the type of mosquito inhabiting that part of the world. These medications need to be taken daily during your travels and for a specified time after return.

Medical care in developing countries can be below standard. Before you go, get the addresses and phone numbers of embassies and consulates in the areas you will be visiting. If you get sick, these offices can help you find medical care.

Summer Health Tips

  • Drink plenty of water; your body needs it to prevent dehydration during warm summer days. Take bottles of water with you, if you're going out for any length of time. Remember, infants and toddlers can become dehydrated much more easily than adults, so be sure they get lots of liquids.
  • If you have asthma or other respiratory problems, watch the air quality report for the day. Limit your time outdoors on days that have moderate to poor air quality outlooks. Plus, don't forget to take your inhaler or other medication when you go out.
  • Wear appropriate shoes for your outdoor activities. If you're doing a lot of walking or other sports activities, skip those stylish summer sandals. Avoid blisters and sprains by choosing a good pair of walking shoes. Wear them with comfortable, cotton socks.
  • Take a rest. Don't push beyond your physical limits. At intervals, sit in a shady spot.
  • Take cover. Sunburn is painful and unhealthy. Use a good sunscreen, and re-apply it frequently during the day. Also, wear a hat to keep cool and shaded.
  • Wear light, loose-fitting clothing to help you stay cooler.
  • Don't forget sunglasses to protect your eyes from the sun's UV rays.
  • Maintain your energy level by limiting your intake of fat and sugar; focus on carbohydrates, fruits and vegetables.
  • Consume alcohol in moderation, and don't drink at all near the time that you may be driving.
  • If you are traveling by air, put prescription drugs in your carry-on bag, not your checked luggage. Travelers and their baggage are sometimes parted, and it may be dangerous to skip even one dose.
  • It is particularly important to bring medicines with you if you are traveling abroad. Drug names, doses, and availability differ in different countries, and in some parts of the world, drug safety and effectiveness may not be up to U.S. standards.
  • Check the labels on your medicines for the possibility that they might increase your sensitivity to sun and/or heat.
  • Don't store medicines in the trunk or glove compartment of your car or take them to the beach unless you will need them there. High heat and humidity can alter the potency of many drugs.
  • If you are traveling with small children, make sure that all drugs are in containers with child-resistant caps. It may be difficult to keep medicine out of reach or under lock and key the way you would at home.

Tips Source: 1997-2003 American Council on Science and Health and 1997-2005, BJC HealthCare

Some Article Info Also Provided by CDC, Saint Louis University Health Sciences Center, news release, December 2004 and 1995-2004, Healthwise, Incorporated.

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