Stay safe, healthy during summer weather

By: Maria Allard | C&G Newspapers | Published July 2, 2015

METRO DETROIT — Ah, the lazy days of summer.

That means afternoon dips in a pool, camping trips, outdoor activities and bonfires to close out the night.

But with the onset of summer, it’s important to remember the various ailments that can arise from a day of fun in the sun. Local doctors have several tips for children, adults and senior citizens to help them stay safe and healthy.

One condition that can affect children during the summer months is swimmer’s ear, which often calls for a trip to the doctor’s office. Swimmer’s ear is a painful condition resulting from inflammation, irritation or infection.

“We do see a lot of swimmer’s ear,” said Dr. Kelly Levasseur, D.O., a Beaumont pediatric emergency medicine specialist. “Some kids seem to be more prone to it. They could feel like there is something in the ear and complain of ear pain.”

“It’s a buildup of tissue inside the ear,” said Dina Ibrahim, a Henry Ford Health System family medicine physician. “It can be quite painful. You want to remove any extra fluid or tissue and treat the infection.”

Antibiotics are needed to treat swimmer’s ear, but Levasseur has a couple of suggestions for parents to try to prevent the condition in the first place. One method includes drying out their children’s ears with a hair dryer right after swimming. This can be done on a cool setting for three or four minutes per ear.

“The other tip for parents is to use rubbing alcohol in each ear to help them dry out,” Levasseur said.

During hot weather, people also need to watch out for heatstroke and heat exhaustion.

“Heatstroke is a multi-system, life-threatening illness. Don’t delay treatment if someone looks dehydrated or confused,” Ibrahim said. “Don’t delay getting treatment for them. It could get a lot harder to treat. (A person) can have organ damage, impairment, confusion or, in the worst-case scenario, could go into a coma.”

“In heatstroke, kids can become a little bit confused. They can stop sweating if (doing) activities,” Levasseur said. “A child with heatstroke needs to immediately go to the ER room. To prevent heatstroke, it’s important for kids to drink a lot of water while exercising. Do outside activities early in the morning or late in the afternoon, when the sun is not overhead.”

Heat exhaustion is a precursor to heatstroke.

“Heat exhaustion is characterized by not being able to maintain your cardiac output,” Ibrahim said. “The heart is not able to pump out blood and get it to your organs. It usually happens when exercising. Because they aren’t able to pump out blood, they collapse.”

According to Ibrahim, someone suffering from heat exhaustion can have a temperature of 101-104 degrees Fahrenheit.

“The most effective way to treat heat exhaustion is to remove the person’s clothing and put a little water on them. A spray bottle would be the best thing,” Ibrahim said. “Have a fan blowing on them. If they lose consciousness, put an ice pack under their armpits and the groin, and definitely call EMS for them.”

Levasseur said signs for heatstroke and heat exhaustion should be watched for in August, especially when students start practicing for fall sports.

Senior citizens also need to stay hydrated in the summer. Ibrahim said they purposely avoid drinking water to keep from having to use the restroom too much.

“That’s something that can really get them in trouble,” the Henry Ford doctor said.

She recommends that seniors drink an 8-ounce glass of water before and after each meal, plus two more glasses throughout the day.

“That’s under normal circumstances,” she said.

If the weather is hot and humid, Ibrahim recommends an additional two glasses of water.

Bug bites, especially mosquito bites, can also cause problems, including itching.

“My recommendation for treatments of bug bites is over-the-counter topical hydrocortisone cream,” Levasseur said, adding that children’s Benadryl works well for itching.

Also, it’s best to take lukewarm showers and baths when recovering from bug bites.

“Warm showers or warm baths make it worse,” Levasseur said.

An allergic reaction or a skin infection could occur with bug bites. An allergic reaction would result in swelling and redness around the sting site that should go away in a few days. A skin infection, on the other hand, would produce redness, and the skin would be hot and very painful to the touch.

“The child would need to be seen by a doctor,” Levasseur said.

Levasseur also reminds families to remain safe while on the playground. That includes ensuring that the playground equipment is age-appropriate.