Can there possibly be a downside to the time of year when it’s sunny and warm more often than not? Yes, if you throw away common sense.
We want our readers to have a happy, healthy summer. Here are seasonal tips from Dr. Gregory Aeschliman, an Evergreen Healthcare primary care physician whose office is in Redmond’s Doctor’s Plaza.
• A little sun goes a long way.
“In the Northwest, we have not as intense temperatures as elsewhere, but when the sun comes out, we see a burst of sun and don’t realize how damaging it can be,” said Aeschliman. Wear sun block, hats and clothing to cover skin when outdoors for any length of time.
“I’m still amazed after 25 years of practicing here, how many skin cancers I take off people and (how many) pre-cancerous growths I see,” he added.
The SPF number on a bottle of sun screen or sun block refers more to the duration of exposure than the brightness of the sun’s rays. Reapply protection throughout the day and if you’re going to swim, buy a formula designed for that purpose. It’s a myth that already having a tan will protect you from skin cancer.
• Don’t drink and drive — or dive.
“There is a massive uptick in alcohol consumption in the summer,” said Aeschliman. A cold beer or cocktail may be refreshing at a baseball game or picnic, but overindulgence can lead to disaster behind the wheel or on the water. “Jet skis, motor boats, any type of mechanized water sports, combined with alcohol,” keep trauma centers busy at this time of year.
• Wear your seat belt.
“Kids like to drive around a lot more in nice weather. Overall, this community does a good job about seat belt use, but the only car wreck deaths in my practice have been with unbelted drivers or passengers,” said Aeschliman.
• Fend off food poisoning.
“People come in very ill because of mishaps with picnic food,” said the doctor. “Keep potato salad very cold. Serve it and put it back on ice right away.” (The same goes for uncooked or leftover meat, cheese and so forth.) If it’s been out more than a few minutes in hot weather, it may not be safe to eat.
• Skateboarders and bicyclists should always wear helmets.
Aeschliman recalled a child who’d fallen off his bicycle and announced, “I’m never going to wear a helmet again because the stupid thing broke.” Had he not been wearing the helmet, he would have sustained a serious head injury.
• Insects can be a nuisance for some, a lethal enemy for others.
“People with bee sting or wasp sting allergies should keep their adrenaline shot with them — and if they are stung, they still need to be seen (by a physician) in case of a second wave of histamine which can hit them later, dropping their blood pressure and causing difficulty breathing,” said Aeschliman.
With regard to mosquitos, “anything with stagnant water is an invitation for them to breed.”
Read labels of insect repellants to see which are safe for your family and remember that mosquitos are more plentiful after dark.
• Curb your wanderlust when hiking or dirt-biking.
“On trails, especially in remote areas, be clear of where you’re going and what time you’re going to leave, buddy up and stay off unmarked trails. If the trail is marked ‘closed,’ there is a reason. I have seen terrible, life-threatening injuries when people disregard these warnings,” said Aeschliman.
• Take breaks in the shade and drink plenty of water.
“Heat stroke happens when the body is so hot it physically can not cool itself. We rarely see this in the Northwest, but in high humidity and high heat, the person may become delirious, and has to be in an ice bath immediately,” said Aeschliman.
“Many confuse heat stroke with dehydration,” he added. Warning signs of dehydration include dizzyness, headaches, confusion and weakness. To know if you are sufficiently hydrated, Aeschliman said urinating three to four times within 24 hours is a pretty good gauge.
• Weekend warriors shouldn’t let their guard down.
“Once the weather is better, people get really physical in their yard,” said Aeschliman. “We see a lot of back strain from heavy lifting, pushing or pulling or ‘tennis elbow’ from hammering or other repeated cocking of the wrist and swinging. Remember lawn mower safety. The ‘automatic off’ feature is there for a reason. I have seen two cases of people who saw a big clump of grass (in their mower), reached in toward the blades to clear it off and took off the tops of their fingers. With power tools such as weed wackers, we see many corneal abrasions. Wear protective goggles.”
Dr. Gregory Aeschliman’s office is located at 8299 161st Ave. NE., Suite 101. For an appointment, call (425) 881-8813.