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Keeping Things Fun Under The Sun

A little forethought before heading outside can help you avoid common seasonal health issues

By the time spring break hits the Southeastern coast, it usually feels like summer. That’s great for keeping your weekends full, but it also means you need to be aware of the little things like a mild thirst or an annoying muscle cramp. Sometimes they can turn into big things that will need a visit to the doctor.

Frederick Harold, DO, of St. Joseph's/Candler Primary Care located on Eisenhower, sees a variety of patients that come in with similar complaints during the late spring and summer months. They include:

Dr. Frederick Harold

Athletic injuries

The longer the nicer weather, the more we’re outdoors playing our favorite sports. That’s great—as long as you don’t overdo it.

“Recovery in sport and exercise is a fundamental principle,” Dr. Harold says. “It is important to alternate exercising different muscle groups throughout the week to avoid overuse injuries such as stress fractures. A good mix of cardiovascular and resistance training—such as weight training, for example—is encouraged.”

Dr. Harold notes that if you had little to no activity during the colder months and are raring to get outside, it is best to ease into the transition.

“Even the most elite athletes benefit from at least two days of rest per week,” he says.

Athletic injuries can sometimes be treated with simple rest and medication, but in other instances the patient may need to consider lifestyle modification.

“Just as injury is individualized so is treatment,” Dr. Harold says. “For certain overuse injuries such as stress fractures or tendon injuries, rest from offending activities and therapy is often advised with eventual resumption of desired activity. For geriatric patients with knee arthritis, for example, activity is still encouraged, but biking or swimming—which are non-load bearing—are preferred to limit further decline.”

Dehydration

If you’re having a lot of fun in the park or out at the beach, you may delay or forget about getting some water and staying hydrated. A strong thirst will alert you to this, of course, but the truth is that by the time you are thirsty, it’s too late—you are already dehydrated.

“It is always important to be mindful of overexertion and dehydration,” Dr. Harold says.  “It can lead to altered mental status, electrolyte issues and heat exhaustion.  Some cases have even led to hospitalization with severe consequences for major organ systems.”

Dr. Harold encourages his patients to think ahead and come prepared.

“Hydrate several hours before a long, planned activity in the summer if you know you’ll have limited access to water,” he says. “Drink water or other electrolyte-based formulas if planning for any prolonged activities. Shade is a good thing, use it intermittently. Most importantly, listen to your body! If things do not feel right, remove yourself from the heat and take appropriate steps to cool down.”

Sunburn

“I usually encourage people to reapply sunscreen every two hours,” Dr. Harold says. “Sunburn can be serious and quite painful. Following the initial pain your skin often will peel and become irritated with potential itch. Try to use emollients and lotions to help prevent skin from drying if sunburn unfortunately does occur.”

There is also a long-term risk: having too many bad sunburns over time can significantly increase your risk of developing skin cancer later in life.

Jellyfish stings

Having Tybee Island (for SC version, use “the Hilton Head Island beaches” in place of Tybee Island) just a hop, skip and jump away means that there are a lot of people hanging out on the beach each summer. Unfortunately, there are quite a few jellyfish doing the same. These floating creatures won’t go after you, but if you accidentally brush up against one, or even step on a dead one, its tentacles can release the nematocysts. These are thousands of very tiny stingers that release venom onto the skin.

“If a local sting occurs, the best thing initially to do is to rinse the region with salt water,” Dr. Harold says. “Then I typically would advise hot water immersion or rinsing in a hot shower, as warm as the patient can tolerate, for about 20 minutes. This has proven to help with pain control. Following this, it mainly is symptomatic care, taking Ibuprofen or Tylenol for pain control and monitoring it closely.”

Since species of jellyfish and people’s reactions to stings can vary, it is important to check for signs of a serious allergic reaction, including difficulty breathing or trouble swallowing.

“If the victim experiences any systemic symptoms or signs of altered consciousness, EMS should be called,” Dr. Harold says.

Plan For Fun

This list is not intended to keep you inside, though. You can still play sports, go to beach, and enjoy the outdoors as much as you can, but some planning beforehand can keep any health issues at bay.

“I always encourage activity, and enjoying the outdoors is an amazing way to get exercise and enjoy the wonderful weather,” Dr. Harold says. “Just be safe, responsible, and smart with prevention—such as sunscreen and hydration—in order to ensure the best experience possible.”

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