Summer can mean lots of time for outdoor fun in the sun – swimming, hiking, picnicking, team sports and more. It’s a great time to get together as a family and enjoy some leisure time activities. But sometimes the fun can have some uncomfortable and unpleasant outcomes such as sunburn, swimmer’s ear, poison ivy, chlorine hair or fungal infections. Learn some basics about what to expect and how to deal with unwelcome but common maladies.
Sunburn is not only painful, but it can trigger long-term damage that can increase your risk of developing skin cancer. If you have over-done your time in the sun, place cool cloths on the affected areas. Take frequent cool showers or try adding a ½ cup of oatmeal or baking soda to a cool water bath. Apply soothing lotions that contain aloe vera or use the “juice” of an aloe vera plant on sunburned skin.
In addition to pain, sunburn can cause a mild fever and a headache that may be caused by dehydration, so drinking fluids may help. Other symptoms include tingling, itching, swelling, nausea, and dizziness.
There is little you can do to stop skin from peeling after sunburn – it is part of the healing process. Calamine lotion may help relieve the itching.
Avoid breaking any blisters and watch for signs of a skin infection. Avoid sunburn by always using a sunscreen with an SPF factor of at least 15. Stay out of the sun in the middle of the day, and wear protective clothing and sunglasses with UV ray protection.
Swimmer’s ear or otitis is an infection in the outer ear canal that runs from the eardrum to the outside of the ear. It can be caused by water that remains in the ear after swimming or showering creating a moist environment ideal for bacterial growth.
Some common symptoms of swimmer’s ear include: itching in the ear canal; redness inside the ear; pain and discomfort made worse by pulling on the outer ear or pressing the little “bump” in front of the ear; a feeling of fullness inside the ear; and decreased or muffled hearing.
Antiseptic and antibiotic eardrops are the preferred treatment for most cases of swimmer’s ear because they offer safe, prompt, and effective relief while not promoting antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Prompt treatment can help prevent complications and more-serious infections. If symptoms do not improve or worsen, see your primary care physician or otolaryngologist.
Poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac are all plants that can cause a temporary, irritating rash when they come in contact with your skin. This rash is a form of allergic contact dermatitis. Sensitivity to these plants may vary from a mild to severe reaction when a part of the plant touches the skin or is inhaled. Contact also may be indirect, for example by touching tools, pets or other objects that have come in contact with the plant or exposure to smoke from the plants being burned. Symptoms usually appear 24 to 72 hours after exposure, and can include red streaks or patches, itching, swelling, and blisters that may leak fluid and inflammation.
If you think you have been exposed to poison ivy, oak or sumac, wash all exposed areas thoroughly, the more quickly the better. If a rash appears, use calamine lotion, cold compresses and cool showers to help with itching. Antihistamines may also relieve some of these symptoms. If you have complications or develop an infection, see your doctor.
Regular exposure to chlorinated swimming pools can cause significant damage to your hair. Since chlorine works to break down and remove dirt, oil, and bacteria in the pool water, it can also have that effect on your scalp, which naturally produces oil to protect hair from damage and daily wear. When the oil is stripped away on a regular basis, the result is over drying, increased porosity, and in some cases pretty significant damage to your hair. While chlorine technically does not cause hair to turn green, it does make your hair more porous and more at risk of absorbing oxidized metals such as copper that causes discoloration.
Prevent chlorine damage to hair by saturating your hair with water before entering the pool. Use a swim cap if you do a lot of swimming and are concerned about damage. Rinse your hair in the shower after you get out of the pool. Shampooing immediately after chlorine exposure is the best way to help prevent damage to your hair. Some shampoos are especially made to remove chlorine. Also use a conditioner after shampooing. A leave-in product is recommended to soothe dry, hair and help prevent the “frizzies” and split ends.
Of all the unpleasant maladies that can be prevalent in summer, fungal infections such as athlete’s foot can be some of the most irritating and disgusting. Warm temperatures and damp conditions make swimming pools, locker rooms, and the floors of public showers ideal environments for the growth of athlete’s foot. Symptoms of the condition vary from person to person, but the most common signs of athlete’s foot are peeling, cracking and scaling of the feet, as well as redness and blisters, accompanied by itching and/or burning.
Not all itchy, scaly feet have athlete’s foot, so the best way to get a correct diagnosis is to see your doctor and have skin from the affected area tested under a microscope. Athlete’s foot is treated with topical antifungal medication, but severe cases may require oral medications.
The best way to prevent athlete’s foot is to wash the feet daily with soap and water, then thoroughly dry them, and use a quality foot powder. Wear open shoes such as sandals or flip flops around the pool and when showering or dressing in public dressing rooms.