As countries worldwide gradually re-open, the global community remains focused on COVID-19 and preventing a second wave of infection. However as those of us in the Northern hemisphere enter the summer season, it’s important we remain mindful of other summer health problems you may experience as life gradually returns to normal.
Here are some common summer health problems and the steps you can take to avoid them.
Hay fever is one of the most frustrating summer illnesses and, as it is an allergic reaction, the way you experience it can vary wildly from day to day.
Hay fever can be particularly frustrating if you don’t know what you’re allergic to and what causes your body to react. You might also be well into your adult life before you experience hay fever for the first time, and it might suddenly hit you out of nowhere.
The best way to avoid and manage hay fever is to combine several types of treatment. For example you can take a daily antihistamine tablet combined with a nasal spray product. It can also be handy to purchase an eye mist spray to help relieve itching and irritation, as well as avoid eye infections from constant rubbing.
If you know what triggers your hay fever allergy choose an antihistamine with the relevant ingredients to combat it. You can try different products to see which work best for you, and if you have any concerns or queries, you can consult your local doctor or pharmacist.
Asthma attacks are more common during the summer months. Like hay fever you might experience an unexpected attack even if you’ve not previously suffered from asthma or other respiratory problems. If you find yourself experiencing what you think might be asthma for the first time, seek an appointment with your doctor as soon as possible. They can then diagnose the problem, and potentially recommend an inhaler or other treatments such as vaccinations and allergy immunotherapy.
If you already know you are asthmatic the most important priority is to ensure you always have your inhaler with you. You can also manage your asthma better during the summer months by identifying and avoiding your particular triggers. Whilst traffic levels may be lower than usual this summer as many people continue to work from home, resulting in cleaner air, you should also be wary of other potential asthma triggers such as pollen and dust.
While many of us may be ditching the holiday plans or eating out less this summer due to ongoing restrictions as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s important to still be mindful of the dangers of summer food poisoning.
During the summer we may be tempted to host a barbecue or eat snacks from markets and pop-up kiosks while we’re out walking in the sunshine. This sort of activity could increase our risk of contracting food poisoning so here are some tips to help avoid it.
If you do choose to eat from a street vendor, you should only do so from outlets that you're confident have stored food correctly and have cooked it thoroughly. It’s also best to approach somewhere that is busy, as this means there will be a higher turnover so the food is fresh. If you approach a kiosk with packets of uncooked burgers sitting openly in the sunshine, keep walking!
If you’re cooking at home and firing up the barbecue, remember to maintain good food preparation and hand hygiene, particularly when handling raw meat. Ensure your grill is completely clean before you use it, especially if it has been left outside for several months without use. Finally ensure your food is thoroughly cooked through before serving – you can even purchase a cheap food thermometer to help ensure your food isn’t undercooked.
Dehydration and Heatstroke
When out and about in hot weather, stay mindful of dehydration and other problems such as heatstroke. These are completely avoidable provided you take the necessary precautions.
The key to dealing with dehydration is to be proactive. Drink water little and often throughout the day. If you go to the toilet and your urine is a dark yellow or orange colour, this likely means you're already dehydrated so you need to take action fast. It’s recommended you drink at least 8 glasses of water a day, but this should be increased if you’re in the sun, particularly if you’re exercising.
Avoiding problems like sunburn, heatstroke, and prickly heat is also easy to do. First ensure you should always use sunscreen that is at least SPF30. Remember that you should apply it at least 20 minutes before sun exposure and reapply every couple of hours - even if you're not swimming or spending time in the water, the sun alone can dry sunscreen off your skin. You should also avoid spending too long in the sun between noon and 4 pm when ultraviolet rays will be their most intense.
By now most of us know that COVID-19 is a form of coronavirus. However summer colds are often caused by enteroviruses which can trigger upper respiratory symptoms such as a runny nose and sore throat, as well as stomach problems.
To avoid summer colds, you should continue the hygiene best practices you have been following to avoid contracting COVID-19. This includes regular hand washing and catching coughs and sneezes in a tissue.
If you do plan to take a vacation this summer, remember that jet lag, air travel, late nights and excess drinking can also weaken your immune system and leave you more susceptible to viruses and colds. While it may be tempting to celebrate post lockdown, make sure you don’t overdo it and take the necessary precautions to stay healthy!
Regardless of whether you travel or not, you should also ensure you remain mindful of the ongoing pandemic and follow health guidelines in terms of social distancing and self-quarantine, particularly if you do fall ill and have symptoms associated with COVID-19.
Dealing with Common Summer Health Problems
While allergies can trigger some summer health problems, many illnesses we encounter during this time of year are controllable and can be avoided if you take precautions. Manage the time you spend in the sun, stay hydrated, and adhere to best food safety and personal hygiene practices, for a happier, healthier summer!