Summer has arrived and with it we change our behavior, we alter our diet, we do more outdoor activities and, also, we have more leisure time. Why not take the opportunity to sit on a terrace in the sun and enjoy the company of friends, the views of our surroundings, or simply let ourselves be swept away by the moment? What’s wrong with that? Obviously there is nothing wrong with resting and enjoying ourselves, but we should not forget that in summer we are more vulnerable to certain situations/illnesses. In this article we offer some tips for “surviving” this season.
TEXT: EVA ARRANZ HOLGUÍN
When we think of the summer, fun, relaxation and unwinding come to mind. It’s the time of year when most of us enjoy our vacations. But wherever we are, on the beach, in the countryside, visiting villages, discovering new cities or venturing to exotic places, we must not forget that the environment around us, its conditions and its other inhabitants interact with us just as we interact with them. Each time of the year is associated with different illnesses and risks, and summer is no exception.
The first thing to keep in mind is that the sun, a sour ce of vitamins and energy, can also be the cause of skin burns, cramps, weakness and dehydration, and, of course, the dreaded heat stroke… How can we avoid this? The first thing you should do is stay well hydrated, drink water and plenty of fluids, and avoid sugary, caffeinated or alcoholic beverages. It is also important to eat fresh fruits and vegetables. You should leave hot, heavy meals for another time of the year. In addition, in summer it is advisable to avoid activities that require physical exertion in the middle of the day. Walk in the shade, cool off and shower as often as necessary, wear light, palecolored clothing, and always use sunscreen that is waterresistant and suitable for your skin type. Remember to protect your head with a hat and w ear sunglasses with approved filters.
We have already made it clear that in summer we need to protect ourselves from the sun, but this is not all: intestinal infections that cause vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pains are common at this time of the year. To prevent infections from ruining our vacations, the most obvious precaution, but one that we always forget, is to wash our hands thoroughly before eating and after going to the bathroom. Another safety measure that will keep us safe from intestinal illnesses is to avoid eating egg products, especially if we have not handled them ourselves and do not know where they come from or how they have been preserved. Fruits and vegetables should be washed thoroughly, and both cooked and uncooked foods should be kept in the refrigerator. If this is not possible, avoid storing them at room temperature by using them as soon as possible.
And for those who travel beyond our borders, a smart tip for avoiding intestinal infections is to drink only bottled water and avoid food from street stalls. Beware of ice cubes in soft drinks and mixers!
The heat can also cause skin infections, mainly in dermal folds, and especially between the toes. To prevent this, always try not to walk barefoot in gyms, swimming pools and on beaches —whether in summer or winter—, dry your toes one by one, wear breathable footwear made of natural materials and, if possible, use cotton socks.
Another common problem are ear infections. Known as “swimmer’s ear”, these are not usually serious, but they are annoying, as there is pain in the ear that increases when the ear is moved or when chewing. You may have difficulty hearing, and sometimes there is a yellowish discharge. To prevent water from remaining in the ear, it is important to tilt the head to one side after bathing, moving it gently to let the water drain out and dry the ear.
Your eyes are also more susceptible to infections in summer. Conjunctivitis is caused by irritation from chlorine, salt (from the sea or sweat) or sunlight, and is characterized by red, itchy, sometimes painful and watery eyes. Contact lens wearers tend to be the most prone to this condition. The best way to avoid an eye infection is not to open your eyes under water, wear a diving mask, rinse your eyes after bathing and practice good eye hygiene.
Stings and bites
When the good weather arrives, so do the typical pes ts of this time of year. Insects, like flies, mosquitoes, ants, cockroaches and wasps, are our almost constant companions in the summer. In some cases they are simply annoying, however, in others it is necessary to watch out for bites and stings.
Each time of the year is associated with different illnesses and risks, and summer is no exception.
Bites can be avoided by using repellents and mosquito nets, and also by covering our skin. But that does not always spare us from bites, which usually cause itching or pain. If we are bitten or stung by a fly, mosquito, horsefly, wasp or bee, the first thing to do is to clean and disinfect the area with soap and water. Then apply cold to the skin, not directly onto it, and use a solution of ammonia or aloe vera to soothe the itching. If it is painful, you can take an analgesic. With bee or wasp stings, in addition to these measures, the sting should be removed.
In the event you are bitten by a spider, you may be able to recognize the two puncture marks. To clean and disinfect this type of bite, it is best to clean the wound with soap and water and apply local cold using a cold compress or ice (not directly onto the skin) for a few minutes.
And if you are faced with a tick bite, extreme precautions must be taken, since they attach themselves to the skin and scalp and can transmit diseases. When extracting the tick, make sure that its mouthparts do not remain in the skin, and disinfect the area with water, soap and antiseptic. It is also advisable to consult a doctor.
In the water, we are exposed to a different type of fauna. Depending on where we are, we may come across fish or sea urchins that could accidentally injure us with their spines, but the most common danger we face on our beaches is jellyfish. Skin contact with a jellyfish causes immediate pain and intense itching. In this case, the affected area should be washed with sea water or saline solution, never with fresh water. If you have tentacles stuck to your skin, remove them with tweezers, never rub them. Then apply local cold and, if it still hurts, take an analgesic.
The more adventurous among you may encounter exotic animals, scorpions, and the dreaded snakes. In the event of a snake bite, keep calm, reassure the person and keep them as still as possible in order to slow down the blood circulation and prevent the venom from spreading quickly. It is important in this case to take the patient to a medical center as they will still require care, even if they are asymptomatic. It is important to know that ice should never be applied, that no incisions should be made and, above all, the venom should not be sucked out.
Always remember to seek urgent medical care if you are allergic to an animal bite, if the rash or lesion is extensive or the area of the bite is significantly inflamed, if the pain is very intense, if you have difficulty breathing, tightness in the chest or throat, swelling of the lips, tongue or face, or if you experience dizziness, fainting, nausea or vomiting, or an accelerated pulse.
And if you travel beyond our borders, you should check with the medical service, at least one month in advance, whether you need a vaccination or any type of preventive medication for your chosen destination.
“Surviving” all these risks is easy if you take the right steps. Being cautious and taking precautions will make your summer as wonderful as you dreamed it would be.