Summer Health Problems
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24 Health Problems That Are More Common During the Summer

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Summer Health Problems
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Summer Bummers

Summer is officially underway, ushering in long, sun-filled days of swimming, hiking, barbecuing, and time spent enjoying the outdoors. But while it's great to make the most of the season, it's also a good idea to keep some general health precautions in mind. Most people understand the importance of staying hydrated and wearing sunscreen during the warmer months, but heatstroke and sunburns aren't the only health challenges that arise come summer. Here's a look at a variety of other health risks and concerns that become more significant during the season, based on input from doctors across the country.

Related: Don't Let These 12 Sports Injuries Ruin Your Summer

Skin Cancer Risk
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Skin Cancer Risk

Overexposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays during the summer can increase your risk of getting skin cancer, said Dr. Mitchell Manway of Arizona-based Affiliated Dermatology. In fact, skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the United States, according to Cancer Treatment Centers of America, and the greater the exposure, the greater the risk. To help reduce your risks, apply sunscreen to all exposed areas 30 minutes before outdoor activities.

Dry Skin
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Dry Skin

Beyond the serious threat of skin cancer, summer also brings increased challenges with dry skin, said Manway of Arizona-based Affiliated Dermatology. "Sun, swimming and air conditioning can contribute to dry, irritated skin," Manway said. To prevent dry skin from occurring Manway suggests using sunscreen, showering immediately after getting out of the pool and when doing so, shower in warm (not hot) water. It's also a good idea to keep moisturizer handy throughout the day.

Related: 21 Skin Care Tips to Keep You Looking Young for Less

Eye Damage
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Eye Damage

During the sunniest months of the year, it's particularly important to protect your eyes from the UV rays of the sun, said Dr. Ming Wang of Wang Vision 3D Cataract & LASIK Center, in Nashville, Tennessee. "UV exposure from the sun has been correlated with formation of growths on the eye surface including pinguecula and pterygium (surfer's eye), early cataract formation, and macular degeneration," Wang said. "UV exposure to the skin around the eye can also lead to certain types of skin cancers, which are much more difficult to treat due to the thinner, delicate skin in this area."

Dry Eye
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Dry Eye

A study published in 2016 by the journal Acta Ophthalmologica indicated patients may be most symptomatic to dry eye during the summer, said Wang of the Wang Vision 3D Cataract & LASIK Center. "This is often when people spend the most time outdoors," Wang explained. "People will be more exposed to wind, which can directly dry the eyes out. The hot air can contribute and those in both hot and dry (versus humid) climates will fare the worst."

Eye Infections
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Eye Infections

In addition to both of the eye issues already discussed, Wang says summer also brings about an increased rate of eye infections tied to swimming. "Avoiding eye exposure to chlorine in pools is very important," he said. "For most, that would mean wearing appropriately fitting goggles." According to a study in the Cornea Journal, chlorine exposure causes a breakdown of the cell junctions in the outermost layers of the eye, called the epithelium. This can leave the cornea open to infection. "Symptoms of this exposure include redness, dry eye, feeling of something in the eye, and blurred vision," Wang said. "Exposure can increase the risk of infection and lead to more significant issues."

Acanthamoeba
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Acanthamoeba

One last eye concern to be aware of — not that we're trying to scare you away from the pool entirely this summer: Exposure to pool water can lead to other significant eye risks, particularly for those who wear contact lenses, Wang said. "Contact lenses should not be worn when swimming. If contact lenses are worn when swimming, pathogens can be exposed to the eye leading to major infections," Wang explained. "The most serious of these is acanthamoeba, which is a small parasite known to live in pool and hot tub water. When exposed to a contact lens and the eye, it can grow and lead to a significant infection." The result of such infection can be significant scarring and vision loss, he said.

Swimmer's Ear
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Swimmer's Ear

Moving on from the eyes, ear infections are another common issue cropping up each summer, said Eric Branda, an audiologist and director of product management at the hearing-aid company Signia. "Swimmer's ear (also known as otitis externa) is an infection in the outer ear canal," Branda said. "If water is trapped in your ear after swimming (or after bathing for that matter) it creates a moist environment that promotes bacterial growth." You can help prevent the discomfort and potentially serious complications of swimmer's ear by keeping your ears clean and dry, he said.

Hearing Loss
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Hearing Loss

Noise exposure is another increasing hazard during summer, a time when many people are busy operating leaf blowers and mowing the lawn. "Summer is also music festival season. And while it's a fun and exciting part of the warmer months — feeling the pounding bass in your chest also means that your hearing is at risk for irreversible damage," said Branda, from Signia. To prevent such damage he suggests wearing earplugs, or noise-canceling headphones.

Enterovirus
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Enterovirus

A particular flu referred to as the enterovirus or "summer flu" peaks its ugly head during the summer months, says James LaValle, a clinical pharmacist, board-certified clinical nutritionist, and author. "However, studies have proven probiotics to be quite effective in the prevention of the flu, as well as calming its symptoms," said LaValle. "Most people associate probiotics with better digestion, since probiotics are taken to supplement the bacteria that live in the gut. But as scientists continue to reveal the importance of a healthy microbiome on overall health, the benefits of probiotics have expanded well beyond digestion to include strengthening one's immune system."

Related: I Started Taking a Daily Probiotic and This Is What Happened

Dehydration
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Dehydration

Dehydration occurs when the body loses more water than it takes in, said Dr. Dena Nader, regional medical director for MedExpress Urgent Care, a chain of clinics. "On hot, sunny days when we sweat more than usual, I always stress to my patients the importance of drinking plenty of water to stay hydrated, even before they feel thirsty," Nader said. "I also tell my patients that they can stay hydrated in other ways, too, by snacking on watermelon or other fruits that have high water content." Watch out for extreme thirst, fatigue, dry mouth, dizziness or irritability, as these may be signs you're dehydrated. Be sure to go inside if you're outdoors and drink water or fluids with electrolytes added to rehydrate.

Sunburn
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Sunburn

Many people falsely believe that they only have to worry about sunburn when the sun is out, says Dr. Dena Nader of MedExpress Urgent Care. "But sunburn can happen at any time or any place during the summer, even if it's cloudy," Nader explained. "I remind my patients to use a sunscreen of at least 30 SPF, even on overcast days." Apply at least 20 minutes before heading outdoors, and re-apply every few hours or immediately after swimming or sweating, Nader added. "Wearing a wide-brimmed hat and a long-sleeved shirt and pants to cover your skin can also help avoid sun damage, but be sure to still wear sunscreen on parts of your body that are exposed to the sun," Nader said.

Heat Exhaustion
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Heat Exhaustion

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that heat kills more than 600 people in the United States each year. Heat exhaustion happens when your body is unable to cool itself down, Nader explained. "This might happen if you're working outside for long periods of time in extremely hot weather, especially if you're not properly hydrated," Nader said. "With mild heat exhaustion, look for symptoms like headache, weakness, or muscle cramps, and move to a cool place." If possible, loosen your clothes and remove ties, hats, or anything else that might prevent the body from properly cooling itself down. If you are working outside, go inside every 30 minutes, preferably in an air-conditioned building, to help you cool off and get out of the sun.

Heat Stroke
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Heat Stroke

It's important to know that heat exhaustion is often the precursor to heat stroke, Nader said. "That means that if not addressed properly, heat exhaustion can often lead to heat stroke, which is the most severe heat-related illness," Nader said. If someone is experiencing signs of heat stroke, which often include nausea, dizziness, headache, slurred speech and confusion, call 911 right away. Heat stroke requires immediate medical attention.

Food Poisoning
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Food Poisoning

The summer months mean warmer temperatures, long days and increased outdoor activity. During these months it's important to take care to avoid diseases that can crop up more frequently during the summer, including food poisoning. "For many people, warmer months mean BBQs, picnics, potlucks and swimming in lakes, ponds and streams," said Dr. Kacey Ernst, professor and director of the online master of public health program at the University of Arizona. "But foodborne illnesses also peak in the summer months when the warmer temperatures help the bacteria proliferate in our food." It is important to make sure that your food is both prepared properly and stored properly to avoid growth of the bacteria before it is eaten. Clean, separate, cook, and chill are the basic principles of food safety, said Ernst.

Related: 10 Fast-Spoiling Foods to Avoid

Blood Shortages
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Blood Shortages

Little known fact: Blood shortages are a significant challenge each summer, which can cause a ripple effect in terms of health challenges, particularly for those needing transfusions. "While the need for blood is constant during the summer months, the Red Cross experiences a drastic decline in new donors," said Stephanie Rendon, senior media relations specialist for the American Red Cross. The problem is exacerbated by the fact that many schools where blood drives are held — and where new donors give — are not in session, and current donors often delay giving due to summer vacation plans, Rendon said.

Allergies
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Allergies

Allergy season starts in the spring, but lasts through summer all the way until the first frost, says Dr. Tania Elliott, a board-certified allergist. "While pollen from trees are the most common source of allergies during the spring, pollen from grasses (think – all the kinds of grass on a golf course) are responsible for allergies throughout the summer, from late May through early August," Elliott said.

Related: Got Allergies? 9 Home Remedies to Try — and 1 to Skip

Lyme Disease
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Lyme Disease

Lyme disease is the most common tick-borne illness in the United States, and it becomes more prevalent each summer, said Dr. Bill Rawls, an author and a leading expert on Lyme disease. "For most of the year, ticks survive under moist leaf litter on the forest floor to be protected from drying out and to stay insulated from temperature changes. They are most active in spring and summer, when the weather is warm and moist," Rawls explained. "When conditions are favorable, ticks crawl out onto an overhanging stem or leaf, hoping to catch a ride on a passing warm-blooded creature." Tick-bite prevention is the best protection against tick-borne illnesses, Rawls said. Ticks are most common in dense forest foliage, but can be found in most any vegetation, including yards and gardens. If you enjoy hiking in the forest, stay on well-groomed pathways and avoid dense vegetation. At home, keep your yard well maintained and grass cut short.

Disease Outbreaks Related to Swimming
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Disease Outbreaks Related to Swimming

This year the CDC is focusing its spotlight on pool safety and in particular, pool chemistry for healthy, safe swimming. Dr. Mariea Snell, an assistant professor at Maryville University in St. Louis says it's a good idea to be aware of the CDC recommendations on this front. "Check out the latest inspection score for the pool that you plan to swim in," Snell said. "This will show you if the levels are considered safe for your family." Keeping tabs on such information will help prevent such things as disease outbreaks, and pool chemical injuries, according to the CDC. This summer, the CDC is also warning of a "crypto" fecal parasite that can live for days in swimming pools and cause severe diarrhea.

West Nile Virus
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West Nile Virus

Unfortunately, it's been a very wet spring in many places resulting in an increased risk for individuals to be bitten by mosquitoes, says Bridget Welker, an assistant professor in the online nursing program at Bradley University in Illinois. "Although typically mosquito bites are harmless, they do pose a risk of transmitting the West Nile virus," Welker said. "The best way to prevent this, as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is to avoid standing water when possible; wear long-sleeved shirts and pants; and use insect repellent that is age-specific and recommended by the Environmental Protection Agency." The virus is spread by the mosquito species that's most prevalent in the morning and at dusk, so these are times you will want to try and stay indoors, Welker said.

Hot Tub Rash
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Hot Tub Rash

While most of us know about the dangers of sunburns, not everyone is aware of other common summer hazards. Swimming pools, hot tubs and air conditioning can all negatively impact our skin, according to Manway, of Affiliated Dermatology. "If certain bacteria are living in the water you could develop itchy, acne-like bumps all over your body called hot tub folliculitis," Manway said. To help prevent this condition, Manway suggests ensuring that chlorine and pH levels are adequate to kill bacteria. The CDC recommends a pH of 7.2 to 7.8 and a free chlorine concentration of at least 3 parts per million in hot tubs and spas.

Back and Butt Acne
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Back and Butt Acne

Wearing tank tops and swimsuits can lead to clogged pores as sweat mixes with bacteria and oils on the skin, said Manway, of Affiliated Dermatology. "Sitting around in a wet bathing suit can lead to friction and cause blemishes to brew," Manway explained. To help prevent this from occurring blot sweat, (don't wipe), with a clean towel or cloth. In addition, wash sweaty clothes, towels and hats; and thoroughly clean swimsuits before wearing again.

Yeast Infection
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Yeast Infection

Tinea versicolor is caused by a type of yeast that naturally lives on your skin, Manway said. However, a hot climate combined with sweat can cause the yeast to grow out of control and produce a rash. "The condition is not contagious and patches of skin may be lighter or darker than the skin around them," Manway said. Spots may occur anywhere on your body but are most common on your neck, chest and back. To help prevent this condition, Manway suggests limiting sun exposure, avoiding tight clothing, wearing breathable fabric and avoiding oily skin products.

On the Job Injuries
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On the Job Injuries

For many young people, summertime means taking on a summer job to make some extra cash. According to the CDC, young workers (ages 15 to 24) have higher rates of job-related injury compared to adult workers. In fact, approximately every five minutes a teen aged 15 to 19 is injured at work. They experience about twice the rate of injuries as adult workers over age 24. In an effort to keep young workers safe this summer, the CDC's National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health is participating in the social media campaign #MySafeSummerJob, which aims to provide workplace safety and health information.

Bike Injuries
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Bike Injuries

Summer is an ideal time for riding bikes, and doing so is good for a child's development, according to the CDC. But to keep kids healthy and safe all summer long, be sure children use helmets and make sure it fits well, the government agency recommends.