With summer comes barbecues, pool parties and dockside cocktail hours. Afternoons are spent lying on sandy beaches, strolling through open-air farmers markets and perhaps even lounging from the deck of a boat. Chances are, the coming months will present lots of opportunities to enjoy the natural elements of the Lowcounty. Before slipping on sandals and slathering on sunblock, there are quite a few steps you should take prior to partaking in outdoor adventures. We talked with area doctors about what common afflictions can occur from too much time spent in the sun. From how to prevent dehydration to decreasing your chances of getting Lyme disease, these professionals weighed in with tips to stay safe, cool and healthy during the longer days of the year.
When the temperature spikes and humidity soars, folks often can feel the detrimental effects immediately. Lightheadedness, disorientation and nausea are common when you aren’t properly hydrated.
“Dehydration is very common in the summer months and is especially dependent on the ambient temperature,” said Dr. Alexei O. DeCastro of the Medical University of South Carolina. “I believe the last death of a high school athlete, last year, was due to a heat-related illness.”
With more and more emergency room visits resulting from dehydration, it’s important to cut down on alcoholic beverages that actually decrease the body’s production of an antidiuretic hormone, which is used by the body to reabsorb water. With less of this hormone available, your body loses more fluid than normal through increased urination. We know daiquiris taste good on a blazing summer day, but you might want to trade that beverage in for simple fruit juice.
“Other precautions would be to avoid exercising in extreme heat, limit caffeine intake and wear loose, breathable clothes,” said Dr. DeCastro. “Seek shade and shelter if you overheat. Sports drinks may help as well for electrolyte replacement. I also advise patients to watch the color of their urine. If it is darker and not clear, they should drink more water.”
In addition to increasing the intake of fluids, it may be helpful to incorporate certain foods into your diet. Cucumbers, celery, watermelon, iceberg lettuce and strawberries all contain extremely high percentages of water. Enjoying a salad or a refreshing smoothie may just prevent you from falling into a slump later on.
“In high school and collegiate athletes, dehydration usually happens during summer conditioning, as the athletes are out of shape and they start to do conditioning drills in this extreme temperature,” said Dr. DeCastro. “Stay as cool as possible and in the shade. Use umbrellas and sunscreen. Make sure you are constantly drinking water. Watch for warning symptoms.”
Whether you are running errands on a busy day and simply don’t remember to rehydrate or are participating in strenuous activity, always make sure to take steps to prevent dehydration. If you or someone you know starts to experience signs that something isn’t right, be sure to act fast and accordingly.
“If someone has signs and symptoms of heat stroke, call 911 right away,” said Dr. DeCastro. “Try to take the patient to a cool, shaded place and attempt to place ice on their core, armpits and thighs. At marathons, we will actually place these athletes in an ice bath.”
While Lowcountry heat can be brutal, there is another nuisance that could prevent folks from fully enjoying the great outdoors. Mosquitoes are common in the Lowcountry and, in addition to carrying disease, their bites can cause severe discomfort.
“For inflammation after a mosquito bite, you may apply steroid cream such as hydrocortisone 1-percent anti-itch cream,” said Dr. John Tiffany, a pediatrician at Liberty Doctors. “Calamine might also help decrease the itch. Oral antihistamines such as Benadryl, Zyrtec or Claritin can also help with inflammation and itching.”
You can find a variety of over-the-counter medicines to help with the burn and sting, but there is a way to decrease your chances of coming into contact with these bothersome suckers altogether. From specific essential oils to store-bought bug spray, the list of items that can keep bugs at bay is vast.
“For insect bite prevention, apply insect repellent containing deet, picaridin, oil of lemon, eucalyptus or Insect Repellent 3535 according to the label’s instructions,” said Dr. Tiffany. “Repellents help keep mosquitoes from biting. Deet should not be used on babies under 2 months old. Do not use a combination sunscreen and deet containing insect repellent. The higher the percentage of deet, the longer it works. Ten percent lasts two hours and 24 percent lasts five hours.”
If you want to go a step further and ensure your outdoor space will send mosquitoes running, there are many different plant varieties you can incorporate into your landscaping. Catnip, lavender, basil, citronella, marigolds, rosemary and sage have been known to ward off mosquitoes. In addition to adding color, scent and vibrancy to your backyard, these natural touches can prevent you from becoming a meal for a bloodthirsty pest.
In addition to planting these items around your yard, there are foods you can eat that will deter mosquitoes from feasting on you. Garlic, onions, chili peppers and grapefruit are beneficial if you want to secrete an aroma that will keep these bugs away.
Mosquitoes aren’t the only predators that can be found in the South. Ticks can attach themselves both to humans and family pets. While they aren’t common in the Lowcountry, some ticks can be carriers of Lyme disease – an infectious disease that can last for years.
“There are only about 30 documented cases of Lyme disease in South Carolina every year,” said Dr. Tiffany. “It is transmitted by the deer tick, which has to be embedded 36 to 48 hours for transmission. The best prevention is to avoid wooded situations where a deer tick could attach. You may apply a deet containing insect repellent – typically at least 20 percent deet – and also wear long-sleeve clothing.”
Whether you are attending an all-day music festival or playing a game of rugby in the park, we hope you enjoy the outdoors responsibly.