(Just follow these tips from our experts first.)
Warmer temperatures are finally upon us, and for most of us, that means getting back into the great outdoors. Whatever your reason for venturing outside, whether it be for work or pleasure, all it takes is a little advanced planning to ensure a happy, healthy spring and summer. Read on for great tips and advice from our resident experts, board certified Internal Medicine Physician/Pediatrician Kay Lowney, MD, and Internal Medicine Physician Syed Kazmi, MD.
“We live in the Ohio River Valley, an absolute hot spot for respiratory ailments,” explained Dr. Kazmi. “So, upper respiratory issues are one of the first signs of spring in my office. While cold and flu are typically fall and winter ailments, asthma and allergies are common spring and summer ailments. When the weather starts to get warmer and the days longer, it’s smart to think ahead about your exposure risks and prepare for how to deal with them.”
- Allergies: “I recommend that patients keep over-the-counter or prescription allergy medicines at home for symptom prevention and relief,” explained Dr. Lowney.
“Uncontrolled allergies can lead to a host of sinus and respiratory ailments, so it’s best to practice prevention whenever possible. For example, if you know you’re allergic to grasses and need to mow the lawn, it’s a good idea to go ahead and take something before hand, to prevent the onset of symptoms in the first place.” But it’s also a must to always discuss these medications with your physician prior to buying and taking them.
- Asthma: Asthma is a lifelong disease that causes wheezing, breathlessness, chest tightness and coughing. Attacks can be prevented with the use of inhaled corticosteroids and other medications, as well as avoidance of triggers. Since outdoor air pollution is a major trigger, asthma sufferers should be incredibly vigilant during warm weather months when they’re outside more often. In addition to prevention, it’s important to recognize the different stages of severity in asthma attacks, and know what to do in each circumstance. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) offer a helpful guide for developing an individualized action plan with your physician. A brief overview is at the bottom of this page, but a full plan is available at www.cdc.gov/asthma/actionplan.html.
Asthma Action Plan Stages:
Beware of Bugs
Warm temperatures attract people and bugs alike. Ticks and mosquitoes are just a few of the culprits who can carry diseases that are potentially lethal to humans, including West Nile virus and Lyme disease.
- Mosquitoes: To prevent exposure to mosquitoes, use an insect repellent containing 20 percent DEET* when outdoors, especially at night or in damp, wooded areas. Mosquitoes tend to come out most between dusk and dawn, so covering legs and arms when outdoors during that time is advised as well. Mosquitoes are also attracted to stagnant water, so avoid having items such as buckets and old tires lying around or clogged gutters.
- Ticks: To keep ticks at bay, use a repellent with 20 percent DEET and avoid areas that are high in leaf litter, wooded or have high grasses. If you must go into these areas, it’s wise to wear a hat, long sleeves, pants and covered shoes, to minimize exposure. This however, does not mean that you will be immune to a tick attachment. After coming indoors, shower immediately and check your body for ticks, particularly in the hair and places where the skin creases, such as armpit and groin areas.
If you find an attached tick, remove it immediately with a pair of clean tweezers and clean the area with rubbing alcohol. Never follow folklore remedies such as covering the tick with nail polish or using heat to make it detach. The goal is to remove the tick as quickly as possibly, not wait for it to die or detach. If the tick is embedded, seek immediate medical attention at your physician’s office or an urgent care center to have it removed. Monitor for fever/chills, muscle aches, fatigue or a bull’s-eye-shaped rash for the next three weeks. If any of these symptoms develop, see your doctor and be sure to mention the recent tick bite and when and where it occurred so that they can begin treatment accordingly.
Tick Removal and Monitoring
- If the tick is embedded, seek medical attention for removal. If the tick is just attached to the skin, grasp the tick as close to the skin’s surface as possible using fine-tipped tweezers.
- Pull upward with steady, even pressure so mouth-parts don’t break off and remain in the skin. If this happens, remove the mouth-parts with tweezers. If you are unable to remove the mouth easily with clean tweezers, leave it alone and let the skin heal.
- After removal, use rubbing alcohol, an iodine scrub or soap and water to thoroughly clean the bite area and your hands. Monitor for fever/chills, muscle aches, fatigue or a bull’s-eyeshaped rash. If any of these symptoms develop, see your doctor for treatment.
Accidents Happen…But Prevention is Still the Best Medicine
“As a pediatrician, I see quite a few preventable injuries in children,” explained Dr. Lowney. “I’m a mother myself, so I know that accidents happen, but good prevention strategies are still incredibly important. When riding bikes, skateboards, roller skates and motorized vehicles, children (and adults) should always wear protective helmets, elbow and knee protectors. If nothing else, helmets are a must. Injuries to the arms and legs usually heal with no lasting effects, but head injuries are in a class all their own. If finances are a concern, there are many community organizations that provide free bike helmets for children. Call your county health department or ask your physician for a reference.”
“As a parent and a pediatrician, I’ve learned that prevention is the best medicine. Some simple advance planning can help keep you and your loved ones in the best shape to enjoy the great outdoors.”
Kay Lowney, MD
Board Certified Internal Medicine Physician/Pediatrician
“Every weather change brings with it a different set of potential ailments, so I always advise my patients to think in advance about their exposure and take the necessary steps to lessen their chance of coming into harm’s way.”
Syed Kazmi, MD
Internal Medicine Physician
Exposure to poisonous plants such as poison ivy and oak are another warm weather concern. Familiarize yourself and your children with what these plants look like. If you do come in contact with one, immediately take a hot soapy shower and wash all clothing in hot water. If a pet is exposed, bathe them immediately before allowing them in the home, where they can spread residue. Keep over the counter hydrocortisone creams and calamine lotion on hand for treatment should a rash occur. In some highly sensitive individuals, prescribed oral and topical steroids may be necessary in order to make the rash subside.
Leaves of Three, Let it Be
A good rule of thumb for staying clear of poison oak and poison ivy is to avoid any plants with three leaves
Everyone, young and old, should wear a sunscreen with a minimum SPF of 15 everyday. The higher the number, the more protection it offers, so those with sensitive skin such as babies, children and fair skinned individuals should use higher SPF protection. Covering up with light clothing that covers the shoulders, chest, arms and legs is also a wise move to preserve your skin.
Heat is also a sunny weather concern. When the temperature tops 85°F, strenuous activities should be avoided. If activity is a must, breaks for water and rest should be taken every 15-20 minutes. Signs of overexertion include nausea, vomiting, headaches, lightheadedness, weakness and chills. If any of these symptoms occur, get out of the sun, hydrate and seek medical attention immediately.
Take a Hike
Getting outdoors for exercise and recreation such as hiking and camping are great for the body and mind. But when you’re surrounded by the great outdoors, it’s important to take some basic precautions. Bats, in addition to bugs, can also carry lethal human diseases, namely rabies. Since bats are a common sight at campgrounds and in rural areas, it’s important to remember that they should never, under any circumstance be touched. And if a bite occurs, immediate medical attention to receive a series of shots that prevent a rabies infection from taking hold is a must. Rabies is lethal in most cases, and potential infection must be taken very seriously.
Water is also a potential danger when outdoors. Remember that just because a stream’s water looks clear does not mean that it’s safe to drink. Lakes, ponds and other watering holes are the same. Untreated water can contain parasites that make humans very sick, so just because it’s okay for an animal to drink from these sources does not mean that the same holds true for humans.
*As recommended for children and adults by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). For more information, visit www.cdc.gov/features/movingoutdoors/.
Be Prepared at a Moment’s Notice
Keep these basic supplies on hand to ensure that you’re ready for whatever comes your way this sunny season.
- Allergy medications (OTC and/or prescribed)
- Asthma medications (if needed)
- Hydrocortisone cream
- Calamine lotion
- First aid items including band-aids, gauze, antibiotic ointment, rubbing alcohol, etc.
- Fine tipped tweezers
- Insect repellent containing 20 percent DEET
- Sunscreen with a minimum SPF 15
- Protective gear including helmets and elbow/knee protectors
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