Beach Boys co-founder Brian Wilson once said, “Summer means happy times and good sunshine.” And while we sure won’t argue with that, summer is not without a few hiccups.
And no, we’re not just talking about tripping out of your flip-flops or that inevitable sunburn you’ll get logging in all that pool or beach time — summer comes with some serious health concerns.
So to keep you, our dear readers safe this summer, we looked to Dr. Mia Finkelston, a family physician who sees patients via telehealth app LiveHealth Online, for things to keep in mind as we’re drinking all the rose, enjoying our summer Fridays and heading out on vacation.
Finkelston operates in 23 states, mostly along the East Coast, and the top two issues she sees this time of year is tied between UTIs in women and skin rashes, “which incorporates everything like poison ivy, bug bites and sunburn as the biggest ones.”
Why UTIs ramp up in summer
“There are multiple reasons,” Finkelston said, “but women are in bathing suits more often or now doing their workouts outside and perspiring a bit more because the humidity level is higher, and they’re in most fabric longer than they want to.”
To avoid, be sure to stay hydrated and get out of your wet swimsuits and sweat-soaked gym clothes stat.
We know to keep barbecue staples with dairy and egg cold at all times, but grilled meats can be risky, too, thanks to smoke chemicals called PAHs, or polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, which can transfer carcinogens into the meat.
“They are harmful to your health, and they’re in cigarette smoke, exhaust fumes, and we know they’re not good for you,” Finkleston said. “But the real question is: Do we know how much it takes to potentially cause cancer in a human? We really don’t yet, so my message is: Enjoy your barbecue, but don’t do it every night of the week of the summer.”
Dry drowning is a thing
We’ve heard of drowning and near-drowning, but dry drowning exists and is usually more of a problem with kids.
“It’s if a child gets water in their mouth like if they’re talking and laughing in a pool and they aspirate it, sucking it into their upper airwaves where their voice box and larynx,” Finkleston explained. “They’ll probably cough, and that whole reaction causes inflammation spasms, which you can’t control. That’s how it’s dry, you’re not necessarily submerged in water; you’ve aspirated a little bit of it. Be aware of it and know what to look for — coughing, labored breathing, kids will look lethargic all of a sudden. They should go directly to the ER.”
Do I really have to wait 30 minutes to swim after eating?
While that’s been disproven, Finkleston does suggest waiting, especially if you had a large or fatty meal.
“All of your focus on your enzymes and blood flow is in your gut helping this meal get absorbed,” she said. “It takes away from your blood flow to your brain and muscles that would help you swim, so it may be more likely you may struggle.”
Pack a medicine kit
If you’re heading far from a doctor or where you can access internet to use a telemedicine service like LiveHealth online, be proactive and pack a medicine kit, Finkleston suggested.
“Include antihistamine, something for inflammation, something anesthetic that could sooth or numb, a hydrocortisone cream to help with itching and Band-Aids, of course,” she said.
Yes, you can get sunburn on your eyes
“Look at the iris of your eye, it’s skin, so it’s susceptible to burns,” Finkleston said. “Brown-eyed people don’t need to worry as much, but light-eyed people need a sunscreen or glasses for that protection from UVA and UVB rays. You can get melanoma in that area. It is serious.”
Slap on sunscreen for that long summer drive
Your car’s windshield likely has standard protection against cancer-causing UVB rays, “but your side windows don’t, and your left side is more susceptible,” Finkleston said. “Wear sunblock if you’re going to be in the car for a while.”
In the Mid-Atlantic states where ticks are rampant in summer, Finkleston urges everyone to do tick checks on “armpits, the back of the neck and private areas — tick love those areas,” she said. “It’s more than looking, you have to feel those areas.”