Keeping Summer Sweet

Avoid the summertime blues by watching out for these seasonal health concerns

In the coastal South, summer comes way before school’s out, and with it comes some familiar health concerns for the young and old alike. Physicians providing primary care services to the people of Bluffton, Hilton Head, and the surrounding areas hope you will not have to deal with some of the most common ailments, but they will be ready with high-quality treatment if you do.  Some typical summer issues include:

Dehydration

“It is hard sometimes for people to understand that if they wait to drink until they are thirsty, it is already too late,” says Laura Knobel, MD, of St. Joseph’s/Candler Primary Care located in Bluffton.

Dr. Knobel expects to see some patients this summer suffering from dehydration.  

“When people become dehydrated they can become confused, lethargic, dizzy or cranky,” she says. “Their body temperatures can increase and if left untreated they can go into heat stroke, which can be fatal.” Dr. Knobel stresses that the best action to take for dehydration is to prevent it in the first place.

“If you know you are going to be doing activity outside, whether just sitting on the beach or being more active such as playing softball, you should start drinking water even before you go out,” she says. “Drinking regularly throughout the activity, whether you are thirsty or not, will help to prevent dehydration."

“If you are doing strenuous activity, or have multiple activities back-to-back, you want to remember to add a bit of salt to your diet,” Knobel adds. “When you sweat, you lose salt and will need to replace it.  You can use pretzels or crackers, or ask your physician about an oral rehydration solution.”

Dr. Knobel also advises freezing a wet towel and bringing it with you to the activity to help cool down your skin.

“Enjoy your time outside, but remember to keep your fluids at a good level,” Knobel says.

Stings from jellyfish and stingrays

“Given our proximity to the beach, injuries from stingrays or jellyfish are certainly possible this summer,” advises Peter Rippey, MD, of St. Joseph’s/Candler Primary Care located in Bluffton.

“The stingray has a serrated spine on its tail that injects the venom usually when it is spooked or stepped on,” Rippey says.  “Treatment consists of pain control, which initially involves immersing the injured limb in water that is about 110 Fahrenheit, or as warm as a patient can tolerate, for up to 90 minutes.  Then the wound is flushed and cleaned, and we take x-rays to ensure the spine did not break off in skin.  I’ll prescribe medication depending on severity of pain. I will also watch for signs of infection, but antibiotics are not routinely needed.”

Remember that shuffling your feet when you enter the water can help prevent stepping on a stingray, which is usually what causes people to get stung.

“Jellyfish stings should also be initially flushed with sea water, not fresh water, and the area should be scraped with an object like a credit card to remove the nematocysts,” Rippey says.  “Those are the capsules located on the tentacles that have tiny hollow barbs that inject venom when they come in contact with skin.”

“Then, as with a stingray, hot water immersion and pain management becomes the focus,” Rippey says. “Many jellyfish injuries can be treated at home if they are mild, but penetrating stingray injuries should be evaluated by a physician.  Of course if severe allergic reactions occur, such as difficulty breathing, chest pains, or swelling in the mouth, then that will necessitate treatment in the ER.”

Dr. Rippey asks people to call if they are unsure about whether or not their sting can be treated at home.

“We can help advise patients of what to do if they give our office a call,” Rippey says.

Athletic injuries

When considering summer ailments, Brian Anderson, MD, of St. Joseph’s/Candler Primary Care located in Hilton Head, offers this reminder: summer in coastal South Carolina lasts much longer than three months.

“The things we see in the summer are things we see year-round,” Anderson says.

One of the advantages of the pleasant weather is the opportunity for people to be active outdoors in different sports. That same opportunity can present a challenge for those who overdo it.

“Over-exertion and stress of the muscles and joints can be a problem, especially for people who might expect too much of themselves on the tennis court or the golf course,” Anderson says. “I’ve also had patients come in from injuries where they either had faulty equipment or they didn’t use the equipment properly.”

Dr. Anderson’s treatment for athletic injuries is specific to each individual, and may include medication, lifestyle modification, or a combination of both.

“Each patient is different and we consider all the factors when developing a treatment plan for an athletic injury,” Anderson says. “Of course that’s true for every patient and illness that we see. It’s what we do here, day in and day out.”



St. Joseph’s/Candler Primary Care – Bluffton
Peter Rippey, MD, recently joined Laura Knobel, MD, at this office at 10 Oak Forest Road, Suite C, in Bluffton.  To make an appointment, call 843-815-3006.

St. Joseph’s/Candler Primary Care – Hilton Head
Brian Anderson, MD, serves in this newly-opened office at 81 Main Street, Hilton Head. To make an appointment, call 843-681-1680. 

Visit  www.sjchs.org/lowcountry to learn more about all of St. Joseph’s/Candler’s services in South Carolina.