It’s Summer Time!

Story by *Eugene M. Hoyt, M.D.

It’s that time of year—outside time—sunning, swimming, fishing—it’s play time. But be careful.  There are many risks out there.  Let’s talk about a few.

The temperature today is predicted to be 95 degrees with a heat index of 105.  Heat index, as you know, considers not only temperature but also humidity and the values provide a human-perceived equivalent temperature.  

I have written in the past about heat related illnesses:  Heat exhaustion and heat stroke are commonly heard terms.  Heat stroke is a medical emergency.  It occurs when body temperature rises. Common symptoms of heat stroke:  High fever, no sweating, fast pulse rate over 100, confusion. This is a 911 emergency call; this person is at high risk!  Try to calm them down, pack them in ice, get in the shade and most importantly get help!

Heat exhaustion is a milder form of heat injury. Working outside without adequate fluids, not taking time to rest, dehydration, and lack of body fluids can cause nausea, vomiting, and excessive sweating.  You must cool this person down.  The garden hose is a good start.

Water safety—You must establish and follow these simple rules that may save your life.  All summer long we hear of drowning and serious water related injuries.  These simple rules are important, but first and foremost, never leave a young child alone near water. They must be constantly monitored. They can disappear into a pool, lake, or river in seconds.  Do you know how to resuscitate a small child? Your child or grandchild may need your life saving care.  For home pools and spas, consider pool barriers or covers.

If you’re on a boat, whether a  power boat, row boat, or sail boat you must wear a life vest.  The greatest risk of any boating accident is drowning!

Bugs—We have them all in Oklahoma.  Creepy, crawly spiders, ants, flying bugs, bees, and wasps, such as yellow jackets, which sting.  Mosquitoes carry many diseases.

Ticks are everywhere, because we had such a mild winter. Ticks can carry both bacterial and viral diseases. Zika virus, which is getting so much publicity, is the newest of many tick born-illnesses.  Rocky Mountain spotted fever is a common Stillwater visitor in the summer.  Untreated it can be fatal. Lyme disease is another tick born disease.  If you go outside, please, please use an insect repellant that contains Deet or Permethrin.  Spray or apply both to yourself and onto clothing. I know how well I follow the rules, but despite the heat and sweating, if in the woods or other wild places, wear long sleeved shirts and full leg pants, not shorts.

What other horrible creatures are out there?  Snakes! Oh yes—At least seven species of poisonous, venomous snakes inhabit Oklahoma.  Cottonmouth, Copperheads, and five species of rattlesnakes:  Diamond Back, Timber, Prairie, Massasauga, and Pigmy inhabit our state.  If you get bitten go to the Emergency Room!  Try to remember the size, color, and markings of the snake.  In some cases antivenoms may be life saving.

Oh how fun summer is!  My last comments are about sunscreens and sun blockers. We use these terms interchangeably but they are different approaches to protecting your skin. As the name implies, a sun block sets on top of your skin to protect from UV (ultraviolet rays) and sunscreens penetrate the skin and absorbs the damaging UV rays. Both screens and blockers have skin protection factor ratings. The higher the number, the greater the protection. The effective duration of the products can be calculated. For SPF 15 multiply times 10 = 150 minutes duration of protection, for SPF 50 X 10 minutes = 500 minutes protection but remember sweating, swimming, towel drying, and other activities may affect the protection of these products.

Have a great summer!

*Editor’s Note:  Dr. Gene Hoyt is a well known physician and Trustee of the Oklahoma State Medical Association.  Few people know he is also an attorney.  A former Oklahoma Assistant Attorney General,  U.S. Air Force Judge Advocate and Trial Judge, Dr. Hoyt continues to write and lecture about topics in Law and Medicine.