Summer is right around the bend, bringing summer sports, vacations, cookouts, family holidays–and plenty of seasonal illnesses and health concerns.
Even though winter gets the worst rap for being the “season of illness,” summer also has its fair share of sickness floating around.
Today, we’re looking at a few of the most common summer illnesses so you can prepare for the hot months before they arrive.
Summer Illness #1: Insect/Arachnid Bites and Stings
Tennessee is home to several species of insect and arachnid that show up when the weather gets warm. Many of those insects sting or bite. Others can actually carry diseases.
Ticks are a big threat during the summer months, with their activity peaking from May – July. In Tennessee, there are over 15 species of tick, with the lone star tick, brown dog tick and the American dog tick most common. These arachnids carry several dangerous diseases, including Lyme disease, Erlichiosis, Southern Tick-Associated Rash Illness, and most alarmingly, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. The most common signs of these infections are a fever, body aches or a rash after a tick bite, and you should seek medical attention immediately should you experience them.
Mosquitoes are one of the most annoying summer insects. They can also carry bacteria and viruses that cause illnesses like West Nile Virus, dengue fever and La Crosse encephalitis. To avoid being bitten by mosquitoes, it’s important to wear light colored clothes and wear mosquito-repellent if you can. You should also avoid going outside during peak mosquito hours (like dawn and dusk when wind is the stillest).
Other insects and arachnids are also more active–and likely to bite or sting–during the summer. Bees, wasps, hornets, yellow jackets, bed bugs, ants and a variety of spiders can be summer nuisances that bite and sting.
Even if you don’t have a bite-related allergy, it’s important to seek medical attention for any bites that are suspicious-looking or feel irritated for extended periods of time.
Summer Illness #2: Heat Exhaustion
Summers in Tennessee are notoriously hot. Average temperatures in July and August hover around 90 degrees Fahrenheit, making it dangerous to be outdoors for long periods of time.
One of the effects of prolonged exposure to a heat index of 90 degrees Fahrenheit or hotter is the risk of heat exhaustion.
Heat exhaustion occurs when a person’s internal temperature reaches around 100 degrees Fahrenheit.
Here are a few of the symptoms:
- Weak, rapid pulse
- Muscle Cramps
- Flushed Skin
Hot weather, coupled with dehydration, can lead to heat exhaustion and, eventually, heatstroke.
While heat exhaustion can be reversed by getting out of the heat, drinking fluids, removing tight or insulating clothing and resting, heatstroke is much more serious.
Heatstroke occurs when your body temperature soars to around 104-106 degrees Fahrenheit, causing confusion, slurred speech, agitation, headache, and rapid breathing and pulse.
Heatstroke requires emergency medical attention.
So how can you avoid heat exhaustion and heat stroke?
First, always wear loose-fitting, light-colored clothing if you’re going to be outside. Try to avoid insulating knits like polyester, nylon or wool. Linen, cotton, jersey and seersucker are breathable, lightweight alternatives that will help keep you cool.
You should also drink extra fluids. If you’re going to be active, try to increase your water intake significantly. If you’re spending time outside, it’s important to consume water every hour.
Summer Illness #3: Food Poisoning
Food-borne illnesses increase during the summer months for two main reasons.
First, bacteria (including food-borne bacteria) thrive in warm, moist temperatures–like the hot, humid summers in Tennessee.
Secondly, we are more likely to cook outside during the summer, where temperature-controlled refrigeration and cleaning tools are less common. Cooking outside also makes it harder for us to wash our hands–a vital part of cutting down on germs. This allows bacteria to proliferate more easily and make its way into our food.
To cut down on the likelihood of food poisoning, it’s important to wash your hands and clean cooking surfaces often during food prep. Separate meats and fish from other foods, and never mix raw foods or their juices with cooked foods.
Summer Illness #4: Sunburn
Have you ever spent a day outdoors in the middle of July? Did you find that the skin on your shoulders, scalp, and knees was red, sensitive and hot to the touch afterwards? Then you’re probably familiar with the unique misery of a sunburn.
Earth is closest to the sun during summertime, making the sun’s rays hotter and more likely to burn you. This is especially true between 10:00 AM and 4:00 PM.
Individuals with pale, freckled skin are more likely to experience serious burns than individuals with darker skin. However, all individuals should be careful to regularly apply SPF, wear hats and sunglasses outdoors and try to minimize sun exposure during the hottest part of the day.
Most sunburns improve on their own after a few days. You should seek medical attention for sunburns that are accompanied by extensive blistering, headaches and fever or intense pain.
Have more questions about common health issues? Check our blog regularly for updates.
Our four Middle Tennessee Physicians Urgent Care locations are open seven days a week to care for you should you experience any summertime illness!
West Nashville – On Charlotte Pike, in front of the Nashville West Shopping Center
Brentwood – Off Old Hickory Blvd, near Firebirds and the Well Coffee Shop
Berry Farms – Located off the Goose Creek Bypass in the Berry Farms Town Center, just down from Publix.
Franklin – On the corner of Route 96 & Carothers Parkway in front of Williamson County Medical Center.