Summer is here, and with it comes the trips to the beach, the backyard barbecues, and the pool parties. But the summer climate also brings with it a number of outdoor hazards. Here at Elkins Park Family Medicine, we want you to get the most out of your summer, so we’re offering these simple precautions to prevent bug bites, sunburns, and skin hazards that the season brings.
With West Nile virus now a reality in many areas of the US, protection from bug bites has taken on new importance. Ticks are also a danger, as they can carry Lyme disease. If not diagnosed and treated promptly, Lyme disease can cause life-changing health problems.
Here are a few tips to prevent bug bites:
Choose the right insect repellent
Most insect repellents contain DEET, a chemical that rather than killing bugs, works by making it hard for them to smell us. Though the Environmental Protection Agency has studied and determined DEET to be safe, some parents prefer natural alternatives. Today, there are a variety of natural repellents that contain citronella, peppermint, or cedarwood. The CDC also recommends oil of lemon eucalyptus, which may also provide some protection from ticks.
If you do use DEET:
- Apply the repellent to your clothes instead of your skin
- Don’t use DEET on small children or infants
- Use a pump spray instead of an aerosol can
- Wash your hands thoroughly after applying
Wear proper clothing
When you’re out in the yard, at the park, or in the woods, wear a hat or baseball cap to cover your hair so that ticks can’t bury themselves in your scalp. Wear light-colored clothing and long-sleeved shirts and pants. Boots are appropriate for hiking.
Practice proper hygiene
When you come in from working in the yard, place your clothes directly in the laundry hamper. Take a shower right away, and check your head and body for ticks. If you find a tick bite, see a doctor immediately.
To help bug bites stop itching, mix baking soda with water and apply to the bite. You can also use calamine lotion, an antihistamine, or another over-the-counter remedy.
Spending time outdoors and soaking in your share of vitamin D from the sun is great, but you can get too much of a good thing. Too much sun can damage your skin and cause it to age prematurely, becoming wrinkled, dry, and leathery.
Aside from changes in your skin’s appearance, people who get too much sun are at greater risk for skin cancer. Skin cancers are the most common type of cancer; in fact, over three million Americans are diagnosed with skin cancer each year, and most cases can be prevented by avoiding UV damage from the sun.
Here are some tips to help you avoid painful, sunburned skin and decrease your skin cancer risk:
- Use an umbrella at the beach or by the pool.
- Wear a high-quality, waterproof sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher, and reapply every two hours.
- Wear a wide-brimmed hat when exposed to the sun for long periods to protect your face, ears, and the top of your head.
- Keep those sunglasses on. They protect your eyes from harmful UVA and UVB rays.
If you do get mild sunburn, use cool water when you shower and try to avoid soap at first. Pat yourself dry and apply a moisturizer with aloe vera in it. Use an ice pack to relieve the pain and reduce redness, but don’t apply the ice directly to your skin.
Athlete’s foot is commonly caused by a fungus that thrives in warm, wet environments. It can cause a severe rash, itching, stinging, and burning. Here are some tips for preventing this irritating condition:
- Wear flip-flops or sandals in the locker room and around the pool. Locker rooms are usually hot, humid places teeming with germs, bacteria, and fungi.
- Shower immediately after vigorous exercise.
- If your feet sweat, let your shoes dry out before you wear them again.
- Don’t share towels, socks, or shoes.
If you do get athlete’s foot, treat it right away with an anti-fungal cream. If left untreated, athlete’s foot can spread to your toenails and lead to painful infections.
If you have a serious bug bite, sunburn, or case of athlete’s foot that isn’t relieved with a home remedy, call or book an appointment online with Elkins Park Family Medicine for expert medical care.