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Vacations, celebrations and endless outdoor activities make summer one of the most rewarding seasons. But as your appetite for adventure increases, so does your risk for a number of health issues.
Here are some common warm weather health hazards to look out for, and the best ways to keep them from ruining your summer:
Heat stroke: Heat stroke is very dangerous, especially for children. It is caused when the body temperature is drastically elevated over a short period, without time to acclimate. Extreme dehydration also plays a role. If you notice that you or your child are very “out of it”, dizzy, or exhausted and unable to focus in intense heat, or if nausea or vomiting is present, get to the emergency room for treatment. This is critical, so don’t be shy about it. A 500 ml saline IV can save lives.
It’s best to prevent heat stroke altogether by staying out of intense heat; resting rather than participating in intense activity during extreme heat, and keeping well hydrated with electrolyte fluids containing sodium, potassium and magnesium.
Dehydration: Most of us don’t drink enough water normally, and during intense heat, dehydration can be potentially deadly, again especially for children. Children are smaller with less of a fluid reservoir, so they can dehydrate much more quickly. It’s particularly dangerous in dry climates because sweat evaporates so quickly you may not even notice that you are losing a large amount of fluids. Symptoms can be similar to heat stroke, so cooling down and resting are critical.
It’s also crucial to replenish fluids and electrolytes as mentioned above. After a certain point however, there’s only so much that oral hydration can do if the dehydration is extreme. In these cases, a saline IV can also save lives. Extreme dehydration and heat stroke are both medical emergencies and can be life threatening if not treated promptly.
Sunburn and the truth about SPF: Repeated sunburn may be the biggest health risk. Despite the known risks of skin cancer many still want to tan in the sun, which increases chances of developing skin cancer. However, many commercial sunscreens also contain ingredients that have been linked to cancer and hormone imbalances. Some sun exposure is healthy, and provides us with the best source of cancer fighting vitamin D3 – but don’t let skin burn or tan too much. This is critical for children, as cumulative sun damage earlier in life dramatically increases risks of skin cancer later. Use natural sunscreens with ingredients like the old standby, zinc oxide, and don’t be fooled by high SPF protection — many experts question these ratings. For example SPF 30 may only provide 5% greater protection than SPF 15. Heat and inflammation from the burn can be treated topically with arnica gel, and systemically with foods and botanicals such as fresh vegetables, mint, honeysuckle, and others.
Tick bites: Ticks, particularly the tiny Deer Tick as well as others, are often carriers of invasive species. Exposure to certain tick-borne species can call for active immune support, both immediately and long-term. The best protection is to wear long sleeves and check your body thoroughly for ticks after returning from any grassy or wooded areas.
Artemisinin is a powerful botanical compound frequently used to support joint and total body health, after certain tick bites. For synergistic artemisinin support, ecoNugenics recommends ArteMax®, a comprehensive artemisinin formula designed to provide active support against tick-borne and invasive species. ArteMax contains the highest concentration of active artemisinin per dose, enhanced with a synergistic blend of whole Artemisia annua herb and a 10:1 Artemisia annua extract. This formula is designed to be more effective and better tolerated than artemisinin alone, for immediate and long-term health support.
Poison oak and poison ivy: These plants are rich in oils that produce allergic reactions in many people. Reactions are typically seen in the form of a weepy oozing rash, itching, redness and swelling, and can range from mild to life threatening, depending on the person. If severe allergic reaction occurs, such as immediate swelling or blockage of the air passage, emergency medical attention is critical. For most people however, the reaction is less intense but still uncomfortable, and can last up to 2 weeks. The reason reactions tend to be worse in the summer is that the heat causes pores to open and allows the oils to spread more easily, which is why cold water rinses are important after exposure, rather than a hot shower.
Treatments can include topical creams containing zinc oxide and ferric oxide such as the classic “calamine lotion” which helps to reduce itching and also acts as a mild astringent to prevent spreading, reduce infection, and dry out the rash. The herb Grindelia (Gum weed) has shown benefits when applied topically as an herbal infusion. Green clay and/or oatmeal, salt, or baking soda are also used to draw out the oils, dry the rash, and help reduce inflammation and itching.
Heat rash: Heat rash is a reddish rash usually caused when sweat ducts are blocked by constrictive clothing. The sweat ducts swell and can become itchy, but in prolonged cases, it can lead to a more serious infection and may spread to lymph nodes or other areas. If fever, swollen lymph nodes or pus in the affected areas are present, be sure to call your doctor right away. First line treatments: remove clothing, get out of the heat or sun, and let the skin air dry. Again, the same topical remedies for poison oak/poison ivy and bug bits can also help to alleviate the rash. Chinese herbs such as Ce Bai Ye (Platycladus orientalis), as well as menthol and camphor are good topical choices to cool the area, reduce pain and decrease inflammation.
With all that nature has to offer this season, especially the wealth of fresh fruits and vegetables, summer may be our best time of year for promoting overall health and wellness. Stay smart with the right health precautions so you get the most out of this season of warmth and joy.