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Summer activities can challenge our health care

May 26, 2012
By C. Paul Martin, M.D. , Marshall Independent

The unusual weather of the past months has reminded us of the many health care challenges offered by spring and summer's activities and weather. Just this past week, we experienced some cool days and very warm temperatures.

Meteorologists have noted that March and April 2012 were warm and wet months which were associated with allergic concerns for people in certain activities. It is important that all of us maintain appropriate care and concerns regarding our health during summer activities. This fact is especially true for patients with chronic health problems such as allergies, diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart conditions.

Although we usually enjoy the increased activities of summer months, this time is not without health issues. As has been stated in this column in the past for the information of its readers, "There is a dark side [to summer fun.] Skin cancer, insect bites, poison ivy, food borne illnesses, drowning, burns, and injuries lurk in the shadows. Take this opportunity to remind patientsand ourselvesof the importance of prevention to avert, or at least minimize, the risk of summertime discomfort, illness, injury, and death." (Dr. Sally Dorfman, Medscape, 2009.)

Especially pertinent this year with its warm and wet conditions is the information reviewed in our previous Independent column regarding summer insects (June 12, 2010). Watch out for ticks!

Melanoma is a skin cancer which is increasing significantly in frequency in our population. We are aware that this malignant condition has caused the death of several young people in our area and is a major health problem. Sun exposure is felt to be a prominent cause of this cancer, especially in people who are exposed to the sun for extended periods of time and/or who incur significant sunburns as young adults. Cosmetic tanning procedures are also thought to have an important causative role; dermatologists and other physicians have consistently advised that people avoid the use of tanning beds and related procedures. Each person can decrease his/her melanoma risk by wearing protective clothing and using an appropriate sun screen when exposed to the sun.

Recreational water activities provide many hours of enjoyment but have the potential for serious consequences. Every summer drownings occur, especially associated with young children in water, swimming, boating accidents, and alcohol use. During the past two weeks, I have visited friends and family in association with water activities, and I have been amazed at the number of people, boats, and equipment associated with this avocation. These co-existing factors contribute to the significant number of water-related health problems. It is imperative that everyone have the ability to swim and be able to rescue others in times of need. Life jackets should always be used at appropriate times!

Summer is associated with increased travel and related accidents. Recent public safety reports in the media have described serious accidents and fatalities associated with passengers ejected from their vehicles; in all likelihood, seat belts were not being used. It is well documented that seat belt usage saves lives! Use them, appropriate caution, and common sense during your summer driving. Remember, your vacation should be a planned and enjoyable drive, not a labored trip!

I was personally reminded of a summer challenge when I was visited my brother's lake home.

While moving some used lumber, I scratched my finger with a rusty nail. The wound was not serious, but it did cause bleeding and could have been a source of infection. Since my tetanus immunization was current, I saved myself an emergency department or urgent care visit and its considerable expense. Be knowledgeable about your current immunization status, i.e., ("shot") record. Everyone should have a tetanus immunization within the past 10 years.

I have discussed just a few thoughts about summer activities and related potential medical concerns for your review today. Take the time and the precautions to enjoy the activities this spring and summer. Remember there will be lots of parades, fairs and other celebrations to complement our usual activities during this time of increased leisure and increased activity.



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