Summer health hazards to look out for

Susannah Hickling

While the warmer months bring many delights, they can bring health issues, too

Lyme disease

This bacterial disease is spread via tick bites. You can pick up ticks in urban parks and even the garden, as well as in country areas, especially in southern England and Scotland. It’s important to catch Lyme disease early, as it can turn into a long-term debilitating illness. Fatigue and joint pain are common, but it can even affect the heart. It usually begins with flu-like symptoms and a circular rash around a tick bite. Wear long trousers and enclosed shoes if walking in woodland or grassy areas, and remove a tick promptly by gripping it close to the skin with tweezers and pulling steadily.

 

Weil’s disease

Also known as leptospirosis, Weil’s disease is spread in the urine of infected animals, such as rats and mice. If that sounds disgusting and unlikely, you’re right on both counts, but if you enjoy swimming, fishing or kayaking in rivers, there’s a chance you could catch it. It causes flu-like symptoms initially. These can be treated with antibiotics. But leave it and Weil’s disease can turn serious, even potentially leading to liver or kidney failure. To prevent it, shower after being in freshwater.

 

Food poisoning

We love barbecues, but there’s a risk that your grilled chicken and salads could make you ill. Don’t leave meat out of the fridge too long in warm weather or bacteria might spread, and make sure it’s cooked right through. Cross-contamination is another danger—avoid letting raw meat come in contact with other foods via utensils or chopping boards, and wash your hands after touching it. Chill cold foods until you’re ready

 

Sunburn

We all know the score, but we can still find ourselves caught unawares. Try to avoid direct exposure to the sun between 11am and 3pm—ideally by staying indoors or in the shade, or by covering up. Use sun cream of at least SPF 30.

 

Heat stroke

Spend too long in the sun and you could get heat exhaustion, with headache, dizziness, nausea, sweating, cramps and a high temperature. If you don’t cool down quickly at this point, preferably by sponging with cold water and drinking water, heat exhaustion could turn into heat stroke. This can sometimes cause seizures and loss of consciousness, and is a medical emergency.

 

Bites and stings

Attacks by mozzies, horseflies, wasps and the like are unpleasant but the consequences clear up quickly. However, some people suffer a severe allergic reaction with swelling in the mouth and throat, dizziness and difficulty breathing. This requires urgent medical attention. Wash bites and stings with soap and water, apply a cold compress/ice pack and elevate the affected part of the body.

 

Athlete’s foot

Dry your feet well after washing them, particularly between the toes, to avoid the cracked, painful skin that’s the tell-tale sign of this fungal infection. Pharmacy treatments work but might take a few weeks. Change your socks every day and avoid shoes which make your feet hot and sweaty.

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