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How to Avoid Summer's Health Woes

Experts explain strategies for preventing 6 common maladies from ruining your summer fun.
By
WebMD Feature
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

It's summer, which means the mercury is on the rise, the beach is where it's at, and a cold glass of lemonade is exactly what the doctor ordered.

WebMD looks at how to survive the summer season -- from heat waves to poison ivy to bad burgers.

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Dehydration and Heatstroke

"Dehydration and heatstroke go hand in hand," says Peter Galier, MD, associate professor of medicine at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. "It happens most commonly in people who are out in the sun."

What happens, explains Galier, is that people sweat and replace their lost electrolyte-packed body fluids with only water. Dehydration can soon follow, and heatstroke can set in if a person becomes so dehydrated they can't sweat enough to cool down, and their body temperature rises.

How to avoid it. "If you are outside and sweating, you should be drinking at least a 50-50 mix of Gatorade and water, which has potassium and sodium," Galier tells WebMD. "You need to be drinking at least one small liter bottle of this mix every hour if you're working or exercising in the sun."

Warning signs. "Symptoms of dehydration can run the gamut from thirst and general fatigue, to headaches, nausea, and confusion," says Galier. "Heatstroke symptoms are also headache and confusion, but include delirium and even hallucinations."

What to do. While mild dehydration can be treated by rehydrating with fluids, heatstroke is more serious. "If you have heatstroke, you need to go to the emergency room so you can have intravenous fluids," says Galier. "With really bad heatstroke, your kidneys can shut down."

Poison Ivy

The old adage still rings true, explains Galier. "Leaves of three -- let them be," he says. So when the summer months begin, plan ahead when you know you're going to be trekking through the woods.

How to avoid it. "Poison ivy is a tri-leafed plant, usually with a little yellow and purple, and it tends to be anywhere with shrubbery, hiding out with other vegetation," says Galier. "So stay out of shrub areas or wear high boots or high socks, stay on the path, and don't touch anything you don't recognize."

Warning signs. Poison ivy can creep up on you, even if you wear head-to-toe clothing. "It's the oil of the leaf that's the problem," says Galier. "If you take your clothes off and you touch your clothes, you're going to get it." The "it" he's referring to is the itching and swelling.

What to do. It's time to get out the topical anti-itching cream again, like calamine lotion. "If you can suffer through it and it doesn't get worse, you can ride it out," says Galier. If it gets worse, you'll need to see a doctor for topical steroids or oral steroids."

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