As my children finish out another school year and the whole family settles into our summer routine, I can't help but be reminded of how nice it is to have made it through another cold and flu season. After a winter of spending more time indoors and in close quarters with others – which inevitably leads to more sharing of illness-causing germs and frequent doctor trips – I welcome the sunshine, swimming and other outdoor activities that summer brings.
As I buy my summer supply of sunscreen, fill prescriptions for allergy meds and remind my teenagers that they are still expected to wear bicycle helmets, I am also reminded the warmer weather comes with its own set of common illnesses, ailments and injuries.
Seasonal Allergies. For millions of allergy sufferers, some of the sure signs of summer – freshly cut grass, pollen and weeds – also bring itchy eyes and runny noses. Often, allergy symptoms that start in spring persist throughout the summer and into the fall, including annoying eyes, nose and skin irritations. More serious symptoms include sinus infections and difficulties with breathing and wheezing – all of which may require a trip to the doctor for diagnosis and/or treatment.
Bites. Need I say more? Spider bites. Mosquito bites. Tick bites. These too are the signs of the season, and in some cases warrant a trip to the doctor – in some cases for identification, because of increasing pain, redness, swelling or the appearance of a rash, or for symptomatic treatment.
Broken Bones. In addition to the common bumps, bruises and skinned knees characteristic of more outdoor playing, comes the increased likelihood of broken bones. While necessitating a trip to the doctor, the good news about broken bones is that despite the temporary pain and limitations, children's bones actually heal incredibly well.
Viral illnesses. We tend to think of winter cold and flu season, but there are plenty of summertime viruses – most notably a group called enteroviruses – that that can cause anything from vomiting and diarrhea to hand foot mouth, and/or croup-like illnesses. Consider a trip to the doctor if there is a persistent high fever, dehydration, lethargy or accompanying rashes.
Rashes. Heat rash, eczema, sunburns, poison ivy and even dry skin all tend to make their appearances in summer. Generally, a trip to the doctor is warranted either to figure out what the rash is, and/or figure out how best to treat discomfort.
Stings. Head outdoors in the summer and you're sure to find bees. While I only just finished listening to a world-renowned bee expert give a talk on how crucial they are to the world's food supply, as a physician, bees means stings. A run-of-the-mill bee sting doesn't typically require a doctor visit, some people experience enough pain, swelling and, in some cases, an all-out allergic reaction that requires medical attention.
Sun-related issues. While we often look forward to more sun, have a healthy respect for its ability to cause sunburn, dehydration and heat stroke – especially during the peak hours of 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Stay hydrated and keep sunscreen on hand.
Swimmer's ear. Also referred to as “otitis externa,” this common ailment of summer occurs from repeated exposure to water and typically presents itself as an annoyingly itchy and often painful irritation of the ear canal. While the pain and redness often bring people to the doctor, simply drying out the ear canal and treating the infection work very well.
Well visits (for school). I would be remiss as a pediatrician if I did not mention “school physicals.” Summertime is actually a great time to beat the crowds of people who wait until just before school starts and take children in. Not to mention camp physical, sports participation physical, etc.