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Summer is in full swing! As pharmacists there are a few injuries/illnesses that we see every summer. We want you to be prepared to deal with them so we’ve compiled a few common summer injuries and how they can be treated with OTC medication or products available right in our store.

Oh yes, it’s definitely summer in Charlotte! Long days, family vacations, camping, backyard barbecues and so much more fun activities and places to explore. While you’re out having the time of your life, things can get wild and injuries can happen. As pharmacists we know this all too well. Every year we’ve seen patients come in with a variety of minor injuries and ailments. This year, we want you to be safe and equipped with the knowledge and tools to treat all of the minor injuries you or your child might encounter this season. In this article we discuss some of the common injuries we’ve seen during the summer and how you should deal with them. 

Sunburns

Sunburns are probably the most common injury experienced by adults and children alike during the summer. As summer is the hottest season of the year, and so much time is spent outdoors, it’s not hard to see why. The best way to prevent sunburns is by using a “broad spectrum” sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) rating of 30 or higher. Additionally, use umbrellas, wide-brimmed hats and wear protective clothing to decrease your chances of getting sunburnt. All of that said, sometimes sunburns still happen and that’s OK if you understand how to treat them. The American Academy of Dermatology put together a great article about how to deal with a sunburn. In summary, you should use cool baths/showers with a moisturizer (preferably one containing aloe vera) to help soothe sunburnt skin; and avoid exposing your skin to UV rays until fully healed. 

Heat Exhaustion

By virtue of summer being the hottest season of the year, it is easy to become dehydrated and experience heat exhaustion, especially if you’re spending long hours outdoors. Heat exhaustion isn’t only a risk for people enjoying outdoor summer activities; persons who work outdoors (construction workers, gardeners, etc) are also at risk of experiencing heat exhaustion. The best way to avoid heat exhaustion is by staying hydrated. Even if you don’t feel thirsty, ensure that you drink at least 0.5 litres of water every hour. 

If you’re not sure how to identify heat exhaustion, it is usually characterized by the following symptoms:

  • Confusion
  • Dark-colored urine (a sign of dehydration)
  • Dizziness
  • Fainting
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Muscle or abdominal cramps
  • Nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea
  • Pale skin
  • Profuse sweating
  • Rapid heartbeat

If you or a loved one experiences these symptoms, get out of the heat and rest in a cool (air-conditioned if possible) room. Drink lots of fluids to help replenish lost electrolytes. Sports drinks or Pedialyte can help you replace lost salt  but avoid liquids with caffeine and alcohol. Same as with sunburn, take a cool shower, bath, or sponge bath. If these actions don’t provide relief within 20 minutes, you may need to seek a health professional as your condition may have progressed to heat stroke. 

Bumps, Bruises and Scrapes/Cuts 

It’s summer, and if you have kids running around it’s more than likely you’ll have a few cuts/scrapes, bumps and bruises to deal with. There’s really no way to avoid them so you should know how and be equipped with the tools to treat them. 

  • Bumps & Bruises: These two are similar in that they’re both damage that occur in the soft tissue under the skin. This category of injuries usually presents itself in the form of blisters and black/blue marks. One of the first steps of treatment should be applying an ice pack. Keep the injured limb elevated (try to keep it above the level of the heart) to ensure blood doesn’t pool and create swelling. If the bruise/bump does not get better within 24 hours, seek medical help. 
  • Scrapes/Cuts: Cuts and scrapes are quite common, and if they’re not excessively big they can be easily treated at home. The first step is to rinse the injured area with lukewarm water and soap. Apply Bacitracin, Neosporin or some other type of antibacterial cream or spray to prevent infection. Finish by covering the wound with a band-aid or with a sterile gauze pad and tape. 

Please note that there are some injuries that may not be easily identifiable or that require professional attention. If there is major bleeding that doesn’t stop within 24 hours, internal bleeding, numbness/tingling/paralysis in the affected area or broken bones/ligaments, then you absolutely need to visit a medical professional. 

Mosquito and Insect Bites and Bee Stings

Summer is a common time for camping, hiking and other popular outdoor activities. Unfortunately, it’s also the time of year when insects and bugs are quite active, collecting pollen and migrating to warmer environments. You should definitely look out for mosquitoes, bees, mites, ticks, wasps, ants and spiders. If you’re planning to be outdoors for extended periods of time, remember to spray on your insect repellent of choice. In the excitement of spending the day outdoors, you might forget to apply repellent and that’s okay. If you’re bitten by a mosquito, ant, spider or other bug, apply an ice pack to keep swelling down or consider applying a topical treatment such as hydrocortisone cream directly on the bite. Additionally, applying a topical cream such as AfterBite, calamine lotion or baking soda mixed with water can calm itchy skin. If your whole body is itchy, consider a cool bath with Epsom salts.

Bee stings require a bit of a different approach. If you or your child gets stung, wash the area with soap and water. Bee stings are traditionally treated with ice or cold compresses to help reduce pain and swelling. Anti-inflammatories such as Motrin or Advil may also help. You may also use hydrocortisone cream or calamine lotion to help with itching and redness.  If a honeybee is the culprit, use something flat and hard (like a credit card) to scrape off the stinger. According to scripps.org, if your child has a history of severe anaphylactic reaction, including trouble breathing or swallowing, or widespread hives or facial swelling, you should talk to your pediatrician and make sure you have a current epinephrine pen (EpiPen, Twinject) and that you understand how to use it.

Poison Oak and Poison Ivy

Summer is a great time to see beautiful flowers and plants in full bloom, unfortunately, that includes poisonous plants too. About 85% of people who touch poison ivy, sumac, and oak develop a rash, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. While hiking, camping, or spending time outdoors or at the beach, you might encounter poison ivy, poison oak or poison sumac. These plants all have an oil in their leaves called urushiol that causes a painful and blistery rash on anyone that touches them. The best way to prevent a rash is by wearing long clothes when going outside, especially if you’re in a region that’s known for these plants. You can also decrease your risk by wearing a barrier cream and frequently bathing pets that go outside as it’s possible to catch it from them. If you do happen to develop a rash though, hydrocortisone cream, calamine lotion, and oral antihistamines can help clear it up within a few days.

Summer is an amazing time of year, even with all that can go wrong. Even though injuries tend to spike in summer, you can safeguard the health of your family by keeping these things in mind and by staying alert for these common summer illnesses. No matter where your plans for this summer take you, stop in to Walker’s Drug Store for all your summer essentials and advice from some of the best pharmacists in the Ballantyne area.