Summer is in full swing and that means sunshine, hot days, beers on the beach and boogie-boarding in the surf. However, with summer's arrival comes prime season for major health hazards, which doctors want their patients to avoid.
"You can still have fun in the sun," said Dr. Michael Dannenberg, of Dermatology Associates of Huntington and current chairman of the dermatology department at Huntington Hospital. "Enjoy it, but take the proper precautions."
Here are some recommendations and critiques of your summer habits from health professionals so you can avoid dangers like sunburns, heat stroke, dehydration and drowning.
You think one coat of sunscreen is enough.
"Most patients are getting the message about using sunscreen," Huntington dermatologist Dr. Michael Dannenberg says. "Our big message now is reapplication. One single application is not enough."
Sunscreen should be reapplied every three to four hours, he said, adding that anyone going in and out of the water should apply it even more often.
You go overboard on the seaside beers.
"Sun and alcohol will never mix," says Hungtington dermatologist Dr. Michael Dannenberg.
Alcohol not only leads to overexposure of the skin to the sun, but also to "questionable judgment," Dannenberg says, adding that moderation is key.
Urinating on jellyfish stings.
Applying human urine is not only a phony remedy, but it’s also just gross. The mythical treatment falls under the Mayo Clinic’s “unhelpful or unproved” list, along with using meat tenderizers, solvents or pressure bandages.
The best do-it-yourself remedies for most stings are to remove the stingers, rinse with vinegar or apply a baking soda paste, taking a hot shower, applying ice packs or lotions and taking a pain reliever, the clinic says. More serious stings may require CPR, life support, antivenin medication and pain medication.
You forget the sun is always there.
"It's not just avoidance of sunburns, but moderating the amount of sun exposure and non-burning ultraviolet light," Dr. Dannenberg says. Walking in and out of the house or driving in your car still counts as exposure, even on a cloudy day.
You think you can undo a sunburn.
"Skin is a written record of your history, and the damage stays forever," Huntington dermatologist Dr. Michael Dannenberg says.
We store that damage as mutations to our genes. The more genetic mutations accumulate, the more we are at risk of cancer, prewrinkling, leathering of the skin, and other issues.
If you get a sunburn, you don't take care of it.
No matter how hard you try, sometimes you can't avoid a sunburn. If a burn does occur, it's important to take care of your skin and your overall health.
A topical treatment, like aloe, an emollient, or a hydrocortisone cream, is recommended. Huntington dermatologist Dr. Michael Dannenberg said aspirin or another anti-inflammatory can help adults with symptoms.
You don't wear hats.
"Hats are back in vogue," and much of the turn to covering the head is driven by the threat of skin cancer, said Dr. Michael Dannenberg, a dermatologist in Huntington. Wearing a hat will not only make a chic statement, but it will also help protect the scalp, ears, face, and neck.
You forget you have feet.
Some of the most neglected spots on the body for sunscreen are the tops of the feet, scalp, and ears, Huntington dermatologist Dr. Michael Dannenberg says. All exposed skin needs to be protected, no matter what.
Furthermore, one of the most common spots where a melanoma develops is on the legs, so anyone spending time in the sun should take extra care.
"We have a tendency to apply sunscreen to our face and our arms," he said. "We don't think of the legs."
You go tanning.
"Going tanning is as bad as cracking open a pack of cigarettes," Huntington dermatologist Dr. Michael Dannenberg says, adding that an uptick in tanning is seen before the start of school. "Tanning should never be a part of the equation."
You forget your ABCDEs.
The "ABCDE" method, which stands for asymmetry, border irregularity, color variation, diameter greater than 6 mm (about 2.5 inches), and evolving size, shape, or color, is recommended for evaluating new growths. Any new developments on the skin that match these specifications should be checked by a dermatologist.
Knowing your body and paying attention to new growths of any kind can also help catch problems early. Moles, freckles, or even cuts that don't seem to go away should be monitored.
"If a patient has any kind of growing lesion with a history of bleeding, for example when they're shaving or just toweling off, it should be checked," Dr. Michael Dannenberg says.
You ignore your body's cry for help.
Heat exhaustion and heat stroke are dangerous and have clear signs.
Heavy sweating, weakness, cold, pale, clammy skin, a quick or weak pulse, nausea or vomiting and fainting are all symptoms of heat exhaustion, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Heat exhaustion can lead to heat stroke, which occurs when the body's temperature hits 103 degrees. During heat stroke, the skin becomes red and can be particularly dry or moist. A rapid or strong pulse and unconsciousness are also symptoms.
While heat exhaustion may often be self-treated, heat stroke is considered a emergency and requires immediate care by a doctor, the center advises.
Treatment for heat exhaustion includes moving to cooler locations, applying cool, wet cloths to the skin and drinking water. Those who have heat stroke should call 911 immediately. The victim can also move to cooler conditions, and be cooled with cold cloths or a cool bath.
You swim without lifeguards.
A swimmer has less than 1 in 18 million chances of drowning when a lifeguard trained under U.S. Lifesaving Association standards is on duty, data shows.
Swimmers at unguarded sites risk unintentional injuries, which are the leading cause of death in American children, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say. These injuries include drowning, which occur at the highest rates in children aged 1 to 4.
You forget to hydrate.
While overall medical care and nutrition are important to healthy skin, hydration is a key issue in the summertime. Simply breathing in hot conditions can lead to dehydration, Huntington dermatologist Dr. Michael Dannenberg says.
Working or exercising outside? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends drinking between two and four cups of water per hour.
You open your eyes in the pool.
Sweat, dirt, skin cells and fecal matter are floating the pool with you, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. When those particles react with chlorine, they form chloramines, which are chemical irritants that can sting the eyes, irritate the skin, and even cause asthma attacks, the CDC says.