Summer is here and so are our favorite outdoor activities. When spending time in the great outdoors, it’s important to take all the necessary precautions, including protecting oneself from harmful plants and insects. Below, Nikki Pham, MD, a Family Medicine physician with Dignity Health Mercy Medical Group, shares tips on how to safely enjoy the outdoors this summer.
Insect bites are not only pesky, but can carry infection and disease. Dr. Pham warns that certain insect bites can lead to health concerns if left untreated.
According to the CDC, Lyme disease is often at its highest transmission rates during the summer months and is caused by bacteria carried through tick bites. Ticks can attach to any part of the human body but are often found in hard-to-see areas such as the groin, armpits, and scalp.
“The sooner the tick can be removed the better,” says Dr. Pham. “The longer it is attached, the higher the risk of contracting Lyme disease.”
Adults and children with tick bites can typically be treated with a one-time dose of antibiotics within 72 hours of the tick bite to prevent Lyme disease from developing.
Early signs of Lyme disease to watch out for include fever, chills, headache, fatigue, muscle and joint aches, swollen lymph nodes and a circular rash at the site of the tick bite.
If you happen to be bitten by a tick while you are traveling or far from your Dignity Health physician, you might consider a virtual visit. Through video visits, your doctor can digitally answer questions and even prescribe medication, allowing you to get the care you need wherever you are.
Fortunately, Lyme disease can be prevented by taking precautionary measures like avoiding wooded and brushy areas with high grass, spraying clothes and gear with bug spray containing 0.5% permethrin and examining yourself, your clothing and your pets for the presence of ticks after being outdoors.
Poison oak is one of the most common plants to cause allergic reactions, according to Dr. Pham. Others can include poison ivy and poison sumac, which can all cause a red, blistering rash that appears on the skin within a few days of contact. The CDC has a visual guide from the CDC to help identify plants that should be avoided.
If someone suspects that they’re having an allergic reaction to a plant, Dr. Pham advises seeking medical care and washing the area immediately. Treatments for exposure to poisonous plants can include topically applying calamine lotion or hydrocortisone cream to reduce itching and blistering, in addition to over-the-counter medication like Benadryl to help relieve itching.