Is Summer Making You Sick?

Summer is both a blessing and a curse. If you’re a fan of hot, sunny days, summer is your happy time. The rest of us will just quietly count the days until Autumn.

But no matter how you feel about this time of year, one thing is for sure: summer is a time when nasty diseases and infections flourish. Hot and humid temperatures are bacteria’s favorite environment. They’ll happily infest your food, skin, and digestive system unless you defend against them. Here’s how to save yourself from summer’s scourges:

Air Conditioning: Bacterial crud, mold and other nastiness are happy to make their homes in your air conditioning filters. Breathing them in can cause headaches, bronchial and sinus infections, and are a particular problem for people with allergies and asthma. To prevent this dismal carnival from performing in your snout, don a surgical mask and gloves abd then thoroughly clean your AC filter (or replace it) every three months.

Bugs: Here’s a fun fact: The deadliest animal in the world is lurking right outside of your door. Mosquitoes kill more than 600,000 people a year and sicken over 200 million.  And the summer of 2017 Is expected to be a particularly active one for ticks, which can carry the bacterium that causes Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever. You can try to thwart the little buggers by wearing light colored clothing that covers as much of you as possible, using the appropriate insect repellent, skipping the scented grooming products, and making sure to change the water in kiddie pools and bird baths a couple of times a week. Check carefully for ticks after any outdoor adventure, remembering they love to hide in hair and warm, moist areas of the body.

Food Poisoning: From your favorite restaurant to your backyard barbeque – we hate to sound hysterical but it seems like tainted food is everywhere. The very young, old and anyone with a compromised immune system should try their very best to avoid food that could have been compromised by improper storage or insufficient cooking. The worst offenders used to be ground meat that wasn’t thoroughly cooked and eggs – but even a seemingly innocent stalk of celery can harbor dangerous bacteria. Educate yourself about food safety here and – for the hardcore food safety fanatic – here, and remember the #1 Safe Food Rule: If in doubt, throw it out.

Fungus: Fungi (Trichophyton) causes athlete’s foot, jock itch and ringworm along with other lovely skin/hair/beard irritations. You get it by coming into contact with surfaces that harbor the fungus (public showers and gyms are fungal playgrounds, as are towels, bedding and socks) or the skin of someone who is infected. You can also infect yourself if you scratch the itch and then touch other parts of your body. Cover your feet to avoid infection at the gym and pool. Wear socks and underwear that absorbs moisture during the sweaty season, and make sure your sneakers are dry. If you often have itchy feet, you might want to apply antifungal powder on your feet, especially during the warmer months.

Swimming Pools: What could possibly harm you when you’re relaxing in a stew of human body fluids? Right. Sweat, urine, fecal matter … no pool is pristine, but some are worse than others (your own personal pool, unsullied by any other human, might be clean depending on your personal habits and bladder control). To make it even better, when all of that stuff comes in contact with chlorine you get chloramine compounds, which is responsible for the eye sting we experience in pools. You may also be swimming with beasties such as the cryptosporidium parasite, which can cause diarrhea and can lurk happily in a chlorinated pool for almost two weeks. Yikes. Best preventions: don’t drink the water you’re swimming in, choose public pools wisely, take good care of your home pool, and drain and then expose backyard kiddie pools to four or five hours of sunshine regularly.

Ocean: If the flesh-eating bacteria doesn’t get you, the toxic algae, sharks and jellyfish will. Oh, wait – that’s only true in Florida. Anyway, in general, treat any cut or abrasion that you get while swimming in the ocean or walking on the beach with great care, and head to the doctor if the wound gets red, feels warm or is showing signs of infection. If you’re taking a beach vacation, ask locals for tips about ocean safety or Goggle “Ocean Safety” with the locale you’re visiting. Example: “Ocean Safety Hawaii”. The same is true for swimming in freshwater, get local (or Google) wisdom.

Poison plants: A mere quarter-ounce of urushiol – the oil in poison ivy plants that irritates skin — is enough to give the entire population of Earth an itchy, ugly rash. Your best bet is to learn to identify the plant so that you can avoid it.  Remember too that poison ivy’s oil can remain active for at least 5 years on any surfaces that have come into contact with it. Wash contaminated clothing, shoes (including the laces) and pets with soap and hot water. Don’t burn poison ivy or inhale the fumes of the burning plant, unless you want to experience the special hell of an urushiol rash running rampant in your respiratory system.

The Sun: Sunburns are BURNS. The damage can leave your skin vulnerable to infections as well as cause skin cancer. Here are some tips to help you shield your skin from the sun’s rays.

 

 

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