By Sara Browning
Who doesn't love the summer? It's the perfect season for morning hikes, outdoor picnics and long, sunny afternoons at the beach. Unfortunately, our skin doesn't like the sun and fun as much as we do. Poisonous plants, insects and harmful ultraviolet sun rays could postpone your summer fun, not to mention potentially causing skin cancer!
Here are a few tips for keeping those summer "bugs" at bay.
Know Your Enemies
Poison ivy and poison sumac can be hazardous to those who love the outdoors. Knowing what these plants look like, and where and when they grow can give families a running start when it comes to prevention.
Poison sumac and poison ivy contain the same oily chemical resin -- urushiol -- that produces a rash 20 to 30 minutes after the skin has come into contact with the plant, according to WebMD.com. It can take three to four weeks for the chemical to go away.
Dr. Lucinda Buescher, assistant professor of dermatology at the Southern Illinois University School of Medicine in Springfield, says poison ivy may either appear as a tiny weed in wooded areas and gardens, or as a vine covering a building.
"Poison ivy is best known for its three-leaf configuration," she says, citing the ancient adage: Leaves of three, let them be. Poison ivy thrives during the summer, but individuals may spot the plant as early as March or as late as December.
Poison sumac, a relative of poison ivy, has long stems with paired leaves growing along the stems. White berries hang beneath the branches. Although poison sumac has been found in the Midwest, the plant exists mainly in southeastern areas that are wet and marshy, Buescher said.
Parents should take children on a hiking expedition and familiarize them with wooded areas that contain poisonous plants. When trekking the trails, hikers and campers should wear long pants and shirts to protect the skin from exposure.
But if you or your family members are exposed to poison ivy or poison sumac, the Federal Drug Administration says you should:
Clean the exposed area with rubbing alcohol.Wash the exposed area with water only. Soap can move the urushiol around the body and make the reaction worse.Take a shower with soap and warm water.Buescher says a rash may range from mild streaks to severe blisters. Oral antihistamines such as Benadryl help calm the itch. You can't spread poison ivy or poison sumac just by touching someone who's been exposed. Buescher says the blisters that appear on the skin don't contain urushiol. However, you can get a rash if you touch garden tools, clothing, pets, wood logs or other things that have come in contact with poison ivy. Wipe down tools with rubbing alcohol and wash clothes with any type of detergent to help prevent re-infection. Poisonous pests Hornets, wasps and bees can be onerous on a summer's day. Bees often leave their stingers behind in the skin, which may result in infection if not removed promptly. Stingers can be scraped away using a straight-edged object, such as a credit card, according to WebMD.com. After removing the stinger, cleanse the area with soap and warm water, and apply ice or a cold compress to reduce swelling. Effective treatments for insect bites and stings include cortisone creams and oral over-the-counter antihistamines and drugs such as ibuprofen that can provide quick relief from pain and itching, Buescher said. Parents of children who are allergic to the venom from hornet and wasp stings should be aware of warning signs that could indicate mild to severe allergic reactions. Signs may occur within seconds to minutes of a bite or sting, according to WebMD.com. Buescher says people who are allergic to venom start sneezing or have sudden anxiety or dizziness. In more severe cases, a person may break into hives, feel nauseous or experience shortness of breath, tightness in the chest or itching or swelling of the eyes, lips or other facial areas. Allergists recommend people who have severe allergic reactions carry epinephrine, a medication used to treat serious or life- threatening allergic conditions. Allergy shots may also be recommended.
Sun DamageIt may be relaxing to hang out by the pool, but you could be easy prey for sunburns if you're not careful. Common symptoms include hot, reddish skin, sensitivity to sunlight and flaking skin. More severe burns may result in swelling of the infected area, chills, fever, shock, hypersensitivity to light and decreased visual clarity. Seek medical care if you experience a fever of 102 degrees Fahrenheit or higher, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, severe pain or blistering, according to WebMD.com. Effective treatments for sunburns include cool tap water soaks and anti-inflammatory agents, Buescher says. Sunburn victims may also apply an over-the-counter remedies containing aloe vera, or use a light moisturizer to relieve chaffing. Using an OTC topical steroid cream, such as Cortaid, will help relieve the pain. To avoid sunburns, wear long-sleeved clothing in muted colors, ultraviolet-protected sunglasses and a hat with a 3-inch brim that covers the eyes and the back of the head. "Avoid the most intense hours of sunlight between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m.," Buescher says. "Apply sunscreen 20-30 minutes prior to going outdoors, and use the highest SPF (sun protection factor) level you can tolerate. Reapply the sunscreen every 90 to 120 minutes." Higher SPF numbers indicate greater protection. If you have light- colored skin, use a higher SPF rating. Most doctors recommend a sunscreen SPF level of 30 or greater. // var ranNum = Math.round(Math.random()*1000000); document.write('http://content.yellowbrix.com/images/content/cimage.nsp?ctype=full_story&story_id=146077683&id=thirdage&ip_id=ProQuest&source_id=State+Journal+Register&category=Healthcare&random=' + (ranNum));// ]]>//