NYACK, N.Y. -- Spending time outdoors is the best way to enjoy the summer. However, Lyme disease, heat-related illness, sunburn and leg swelling are common annoyances during warmer months. By taking simple steps to prevent these common health problems, Rockland residents can ensure they're making the most out of the season's enjoyments.
Unsurprisingly, one of the biggest summertime fears is Lyme disease. "Ticks carrying Lyme disease are widespread in Rockland County," said Dr. Dana Corriel, director of quality for Highland Medical, P.C. and board-certified internist at Pearl River Internal Medicine. “Avoid areas with thick shrubbery and high grass, which is where ticks reside, and when hiking, stay in the center of trails."
Upon returning home from a tick-infested area, it's important to conduct a full-body check using a handheld or full-length mirror. If a tick is found, use tweezers to remove the tick as close to the skin as possible. Grabbing the tick, pull upward with a slow, steady motion. Dispose of the tick by submersing it in alcohol, placing it in a sealed bag or container, wrapping it tightly in tape or flushing it down the toilet. If the bitten person shows signs of having the flu or a rash around the bite appears, contact a doctor immediately.
Another summer danger is heat-related illness, which is especially prevalent in older adults, young children and those with chronic diseases. An easy way to combat this seasonal problem, however, is by drinking plenty of fluids. “Generally, I recommend drinking about eight cups of water a day, but I tell patients to increase that amount when it’s hot, because you sweat and lose more fluid,” said Corriel. Other ways to prevent heat-related illness are to wear loose, lightweight clothing and a hat, and avoid the outdoors during the hottest part of the day.
The sun is the best and most natural way for the body to get vitamin D, however, too much sun can damage the skin and increase the risk of skin cancer. To protect skin, staying in the shade as much as possible -- especially during midday hours -- is key. Wearing a hat and wraparound sunglasses can protect the face from overexposure, while using sunscreen with a SPF of 15 or higher offers protection from both UVA and UVB rays. When sitting on the beach, laying by the pool or performing any strenuous activity, it's important to reapply sunscreen at least every two hours, or after sweating or swimming.
Leg swelling, or edema, is caused by the retention of fluid in leg tissues and can also become common during the summer. Those at risk include the elderly, those with severe chronic lung diseases or congestive heart failure, as well as some pregnant women. “To avoid leg swelling, don’t stand or sit for long periods," said Corriel. "When you do sit down, try and elevate your legs to allow gravity to pull fluid away from your lower extremities." Soaking legs in Epsom salts can also help, but if swelling continues, it's important to see a doctor.
For more information on ways to beat the heat this summer, click here.