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Summer sicknesses

The 5 worst summer sicknesses

Getting sick in the summer is a real bummer, but certain illnesses are more common during that time of year. So if you want to keep enjoying the barbecues, picnics and pools, learn how you can prevent and treat five of the worst summer sicknesses. 

1. Swimmer’s ear:  Swimmer’s ear is an inflammation that occurs in the skin of the ear canal. The ear becomes infected when moisture or water is trapped in the ear canal. An infection can also occur when there is trauma to the ear from the use of cotton swabs or hearing aids.  

Swimmer’s ear can cause significant ear pain. And common symptoms include: ear discharge, itching, hearing loss and a fullness sensation in the ear.

The best treatment for swimmers ear is a course of ear drops, says Marcelo Antunes, M.D., an otolaryngologist (ear, nose and throat physician) at Piedmont.

“Initially we use antibiotic drops,” says Dr. Antunes. “Also, a good cleaning of the ear canal and removing all the debris that are in the canal will be important. And we can do that in the office.”  

Dr. Antunes says the best way to prevent swimmer’s ear is to avoid using Q-tips, keep the ear clean and dry and remove all water from the ear canal after swimming.

2. Poison ivy rash:  Poison ivy rash is a red, itchy rash that forms when skin comes in contact with the oil or resin of a poison ivy plant. The rash develops within hours or even days after contact, and the severity of the reaction depends on the amount of oil you have gotten on your skin.

If you come in contact with a poison ivy plant and develop a rash:

  • Apply cool compresses to the skin.

  • Apply calamine lotion and hydrocortisone cream to reduce itching.

  • Take an oatmeal bath to dry out the rash and reduce itching.

Poison ivy plants have three green leaves and a red stem, and they typically grow in the form of a vine. Leaves of three, let them be.

3. Summer colds: Colds in the summer always feel so much worse than they do in the winter. But are they that different?

“The types of virus can be slightly different, but essentially there is not much of a difference,” says Dr. Antunes. “Summer colds seem worse because during the summer everyone wants to be outside and swimming. On occasion, the viruses can cause a more insidious course, so you feel sick for a longer period of time.”

Symptoms of a summer cold include: nasal congestion, discharge that is clear or thick, a dry cough, ear pressure, and occasionally, a fever.

To treat summer colds, Dr. Antunes recommends staying hydrated, using nasal saline rinses,  and taking oral decongestants and oral anti-inflammatories.

He says the best way to prevent a summer cold is to stay away from people with colds.

4. Food poisoning: Foodborne illnesses increase during the summer because foodborne bacteria grow faster in hot, humid conditions and people increase their outdoor activities, which include cooking and eating outside.

Most foodborne illnesses cause vomiting and diarrhea, but you should see your doctor if you have a fever over 101.5 °F, blood in your stool, signs of dehydration, or diarrhea that lasts for more than three days.

To prevent the spread of foodborne illnesses, the United States Department of Agriculture recommends:

  • Washing hands and surfaces often.

  • Separating meats when prepping and grilling.

  • Cooking all raw beef, pork, lamb and veal to 160 °F.

  • Refrigerating perishable foods like cooked meats, potato or pasta salads.

5. Asthma: Summer can be a dangerous time for those suffering from asthma, particularly when your asthma triggers are commonly found outdoors. Sudden changes in weather, like a humid day or a cool breeze, can trigger an attack.  Even smoke billowing from a campfire can cause an asthma flair-up.

To prevent a summer asthma attack, know your triggers and get tested for allergies. It’s also important to continue your normal treatment routine and carry your inhaler at all times.

See additional helpful, healthful tips from Piedmont experts.

Need to make an appointment with a Piedmont physician? Save time, book online.

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