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  • Writer's pictureMohammed Fuad

Focusing on summer health

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Summer is approaching and that means warm and sunny days equal fun activities like the beach and outdoor events. While that is the case, there are illnesses and injuries that people should be aware of to better protect themselves while also having fun.

Medical Director of Telemedicine and Ambulatory Quality at AtlantiCare Dr. Mary Ann Yehl, D.O., thinks of the summer as an injury and illness. Illnesses that Yehl listed include summer cold and poison ivy while injuries include sunburn and firework burns as well as injuries from activities like falling off of your bike.

In regards to staying well, it’s important to be up to date with vaccination screenings as COVID-19 is still something to keep in mind now that flu season is behind us. Yehl stated the importance of hand washing and masking up as they’re ways to help prevent infections and illnesses from spreading during the summer. Other ways to prevent illness and injury include sunscreen, wearing your helmet, bug spray and being aware of fireworks.

“This is a really big thing [firework burns] that we’ve seen in Emergency Departments and certainly in Urgent Care a little bit, not certainly the smaller burns from fireworks but you want to stay away from fireworks and let the professionals handle that,” Yehl said.

In terms of outdoor activities like barbecues, Yehl recommends using common sense regarding food safety as there have been instances of illnesses carried over from hot rice and chicken dishes left out in the sun for several hours.

When being out in the sun for a long period of time, there are heat-related issues to consider such as heart attack, heat exhaustion and stroke. Dr. Vineet Meghrajani, M.D., is an AtlantiCare Physician specializing in cardiology and Meghrajani stated that people should be aware of heat-related heart issues and symptoms because of how people underestimate how hard it is to get through May to September.

“You have days where it’s just temperate and pleasant, but there are days where it easily goes above 80 to 90 degrees and prolonged exertion, even in mild to moderate temperatures. You lose fluid quite quickly, more quickly than you actually realize and before you know it, you’re dehydrated,” Meghrajani said.

Meghrajani discussed the risks associated with exerting yourself into moderate to mild climates, which include multiple metabolic abnormalities such as a heart attack or stroke.

Meghrajani also stated the importance of being surrounded by people when going out in extreme heat temperatures because if something were to happen to them, help wouldn’t be able to get to them as fast if they were alone.

Symptoms to be aware of for heart attacks and strokes to call 911 immediately is that a heart attack is a sudden or gradual onset deep left-sided chest pain that feels like an elephant sitting on your chest and the pain either goes to the left arm or left side of the jaw. But Meghrajani explained that while that is a symptom, that may not always be the case but urged those to call 911 immediately as a precaution.

“Sometimes, it presents as if you’re just having heartburn, but it slowly onsets and gradually increases or it can have a waxing and waning progression. But again, sometimes it may not be because of a heart attack and it may truly be because of something that is not heart-related, but in my opinion is better safe than sorry and just dial 911, to get to the ER, get yourself the medical attention that you need,” Meghrajani said.

Common symptoms for stroke include weakness, numbness or tingling of a part of your body, typically half to the right or left side but there are more symptoms associated with it that people should be aware of in case of an emergency.

“We do have some atypical presentations of different kinds of stroke where there is a certain onset headache, altered mental status or even loss of consciousness. In the worst case scenario where you were to lose consciousness, it’s always good to be surrounded by people who can call for help for you so it’s just better to be safe than sorry and pick up the phone and dial 911,” Meghrajani said.

Another disease to keep note of in terms of summer safety is skin cancer. Radiation Oncologist and Medical Director at AtlantiCare’s Cancer Care Institute and Radiation Oncology Dr. James Wurzer, M.D., said that when they look at incidents of cancer, skin cancer is excluded as it is the number one deadliest cancer. The most common types of skin cancer are basal-cell carcinoma, which is easily diagnosable and treated, and more deadlier ones like melanoma.

Wurzer stated that skin cancer is very treatable and curable in its earliest stages and that any unusual or suspicious skin lesions should be brought to your physician’s attention. As it gets to the advanced stages, however, it’s far more difficult to treat and cure, according to Wurzer.

“You want to be screened because this is something that tends to be easily diagnosed and treated and if you neglect it, it can be a major problem and it could be one of the more serious types of skin cancer such as melanoma,” Wurzer said.

Cancer screenings are recommended as the dermatology department in AtlantiCare provide skin screenings as these visits pick up skin cancer diagnosis routinely due to concerns of spots being in different parts of the body. When it comes to the summer, people are outside in the beach to get a tan and the concern is sunburn. Wurzer’s skin cancer prevention tips include a sunscreen with a Sun Prevention Factor (SPF) of 50 or above and wearing wide-brimmed hats and rash guard shirts.

Another cancer risk to consider when outside is lung and bladder cancers due to smoking, mainly from a respiratory standpoint due to secondhand smoke concerns. Other noncancerous concerns include Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and to avoid those risks is smoking cessation and avoiding secondhand smoke, to which AtlantiCare has a smoking cessation program.

Meghrajani recommends those who use medication, especially those who use multiple, to use a pill organizer, which comes in handy whether you’re outside for activities or on vacation for a long period of time. In terms of exercising during the day, Meghrajani recommends avoiding between 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., where the sunlight is at its maximum.

“Even if the temperature is not that high, even if it is like about 75 and 80, if you’re pushing yourself to a level of exertion where you’re losing your body fluids very quickly, that can cause a lot of problems. I personally recommend avoiding it between the hours of 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. and that usually shouldn’t be that much of a problem for people working regular hours because most people are at work anyways. But for those who work night shifts, if you’re planning to exercise during those hours, always do it in a safe enclosed environment where you’re away from direct sunlight and where the temperature is regulated and where there are people to be available for help if you need it,” Meghrajani said.

Yehl also recommends those to use AtlantiCare’s primary care virtualist program to link individuals with primary care either by calling or going online.

“We meet, I do a full history and if you have certain high risk conditions, I will do the whole visit and I will follow up with our in-person doctor. If you have no high risk conditions, then I can be your doctor and it can be virtual or in-person, but you’re established with AtlantiCare primary care, you’re our patient and you have access to all of our resources,” Yehl said.


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